Operation Smile Thailand nears its goal of 1,000 changed lives
KIDS ACTION for Kids (KAFK) is closing in on completing 1,000 life-transforming surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates, mostly in Thailand but also with at least one in Myanmar.
Hakkon Brekke, chairman of Kids Action for Kids (KAFK), said that KAFK has two main goals: (1) to change the lives of the children both physically and mentally; and (2) to provide an inspiration for members of the younger generation who want to contribute to positive social change.
KAFK covers 100 per cent of the expense of the surgeries and also provides support to families. The surgeries take about 45 minutes on average and cost about US$800 per patient, or around Bt25,000. Brekke said it’s a small price to pay for a procedure that makes such a dramatic improvement to young lives and reduces their chances of developing social phobias, malnutrition and mental health problems.
“We are very proud of the work of Operation Smile Thailand and other programmes dedicated to making a new life possible for less fortunate children. I think that the main factor that makes us successful is support from groups of people of different ages, nationalities and careers.
“Our immediate targets are to reach 1,000 surgeries and to provide inspiration for a new generation around the world who are interested in contributing to social change as we are doing,’’ he said.
Kids Action for Kids is a private Norwegian foundation and non-profit organisation formally established in 2009 to help less fortunate children in Southeast Asia. KAFK’s main focus has been to raise money to finance surgeries and follow-up therapy for kids with facial deformities, cleft lips and cleft palates. The organisation is also strongly motivated by the belief that young people involved in the operation of KAFK programmes can express great power in changing society with the supervision and support of adults.
KAFK’s first project in Thailand was the renovation of two playrooms at a local orphanage in Bangkok in 2007. After that it got to know Operation Smile and decided to start working with it. Brekke said supporting Operation Smile Thailand was so great “because the changes we could make lasts for the rest of the children’s lives.
“Since we started working with them in 2009, we have helped finance and complete around 900 surgeries. Most of our work has been in Thailand, and one of our surgery missions took place in Myanmar.”
KAFK has evolved a lot since it started. It began with a small orphanage project and with limited fundraising has grown to be an organisation that has changed the lives of almost 1,000 children and families, with hundreds of donors and supporters worldwide. The plan was to help as many people as possible and to inspire others to do the same, but it has come further than its founders expected. The key success factors have been in rallying the support of so many different people (different ages, nationalities, occupation) combined with having such a measurable cause.
“It is very easy to explain the difference your supporters are making when you can show ‘before and after pictures’ and give an estimated surgery cost. Finally, we guarantee that 100 per cent of donations go towards the surgeries, meaning we cover all administrative and travel costs ourselves. Donors would much rather give to a charity where they know exactly where their money is going,” he said.