Dr. Charles Kabetu's Story

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Dr. Kabetu’s introduction with Operation Smile happened by accident, as he calls it. He walked into work one morning to see his name was on a list posted in the operating room. That list ended up being Operation Smile’s first medical mission in Kenya.

“I saw this big team that had come from around the world to operate on our kids with cleft lip and cleft palate,” Dr. Kabetu said. “The idea that this team had come just to help us, I thought, I have to be a part of it, to help our kids, too, to give back.”

Now, 27 years after that first week with Operation Smile, Dr. Kabetu continues to volunteer and says his passion for the organization has only strengthened.

Over the decades, as Operation Smile has traveled throughout Kenya, reaching more children, giving them a renewed hope for the future. Dr. Kabetu began to see the real difference Operation Smile was making in his country.

“We started going to various and diverse sites and I got excited in seeing that we are actually making an impact,” Dr. Kabetu said. “We are able to operate on the unfortunate who would never have surgery if it wasn’t for us."

Operation Smile’s impact in Kenya reaches far beyond the children who receive surgery. Rather, the organization has served to change the perception of cleft deformities in the community and has influenced the daily practice of Kenyan doctors through collaborating with the Operation Smile team.

“When we work with so many teams from around the world, it helps us to diversify the way we treat our patients and the way we look at our clinical procedures and we have been able to utilize that knowledge in our normal practice,” Dr. Kabetu said. “My practice as an anesthesiologist and hospital administrator has actually grown from the knowledge I’ve gained from being a volunteer with Operation Smile.”

“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President