(WXYZ) — Two students at Washtenaw International High School are volunteering to help children affected by cleft conditions.
Jade Xu and Anum Latif first got involved volunteering through an Operation Smile Club during their sophomore year.
Operation Smile is a global nonprofit dedicated to providing free reconstructive cleft surgery.
“Jade and I were able to start a school club even though it was later in the year," Anum said in a press release. "I think what inspired me the most to get involved was seeing a lot of healthcare disparities right in front of me. Being from a developing country, I’ve witnessed this huge gap in healthcare accessibility and availability up front and I knew that I wanted to get involved with an organization that was working to combat that.
“Operation Smile stuck out to me because most of the organizations I was looking at had students focus on advocacy and not really action. It was imperative to me that the organization I volunteered with balanced both components and seeing that Operation Smile did that, I knew that I wanted to get involved.”
Despite challenges with fundraising at their school due to COVID-19, Jade and Anum were able to help their club participate in Operation Smile’s Sending Hope Campaign and successfully gather hygiene supplies for young patients in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Panama.
“This was definitely a setback because a lot of our plans had involved fundraising,” said Anum. “Obviously, that did not stop us, but it did require us to think outside of the box when it came to projects like the Sending Hope campaign.”
The Operation Smile club at Washtenaw High was able to gather 566 hygiene supplies for care packages that would help ensure these young patients remain healthy enough to receive surgery.
“I think the best part about the work we do is knowing that as students, and even as teenagers, we have the ability to impact others and make positive change,” Jade said. “Even during COVID when opportunities are restricted, I was amazed to find that through Operation Smile we were still able to find ways to get involved with our community, develop original projects, and help patients with cleft conditions.”