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Eight years ago I became an international youth ambassador for Operation Smile, a charity that has helped more than 160,000 children with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities. I love children, and at that time I felt like I needed to stop fixating on the drama in my own life and do something for someone else. Since then I've traveled to Kenya and India with Operation Smile and have been with kids during corrective surgeries. Normally I'm squeamish, but when you know an operation is changing someone's life, it's empowering to watch. A lot of babies and kids with cleft palates can't be fed properly, and in some countries parents give up kids with facial deformities because they're ashamed of them. More than 200,000 children are born with severe cleft conditions every year. Operation Smile gives kids the chance to express what they're feeling -- to frown when they are sad, to smile when they are happy, to show their emotions to the world. To learn more, visit the website below.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2011.operationsmile.org