Operation Smile FAQ

The following information is provided to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions. If you require further assistance, please contact us on 020 3475 5126 or email info@operationsmile.org.uk



What is a cleft lip and cleft palate?

A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy. As a result, children born with a cleft condition may have an opening in the lip or the roof of their mouth – or both. Children can have a unilateral cleft condition, meaning one side of their mouth is affected, or they can have a bilateral cleft condition where both sides of the mouth are affected.


How does Operation Smile differ in their approach to treating children with cleft conditions around the world?

Not every country or community around the world is the same. That’s why we work with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other NGOs to create various models of surgical care. Together, we determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever we work. And we’re going to keep doing this and refining our approach as we move forward. All with the goal to give the most effective surgical care to patients worldwide.

First and foremost, we bring the highest quality of care to every child, every time. We were the first cleft organisation to support the World Health Organisation’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives initiative. Our Global Standards of Care is our commitment to ensuring that every patient cared for by Operation Smile will benefit from the same sophisticated equipment, procedures and highly trained, credentialed medical professionals, no matter where they receive treatment.

What does it cost to provide a surgery for a child with a cleft condition?

As little as £150 helps provide surgery to a child with a cleft condition. This is possible thanks to the generous contributions of medical professionals who volunteer their time, as well as corporations that donate critical supplies and equipment necessary for safe surgery. This cost includes expenses incurred for essential medical team members to be at a medical mission, the expenses for additional required supplies and shipping cargo costs.

Do all surgeries cost £150?

Operation Smile conducts hundreds of medical missions in locations around the world. Every one of those locations is unique. Sometimes we have to import medical equipment and/or import medical expertise which can make providing free surgeries more costly.  We work with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other NGOs to create various models of surgical care. Together, we determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever we work. We have the same goal: improve how surgical care is delivered while empowering local communities. As a result of these efforts, Operation Smile’s surgeries are performed by local medical professionals at a greatly reduced cost.


Do you do any work in the UK to help people born with cleft conditions?

We are lucky enough in the UK to have the NHS so Operation Smile does not perform any surgeries for children born in the UK with a cleft condition.

The UK’s National Health Service provides free surgery to children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate or facial deformities in the UK.

I live in the UK. Why have I never seen a child with a cleft here?

Children are born with clefts in the UK too but as they are repaired in infancy it is extremely unlikely you’ll see anyone with an unrepaired cleft lip or palate here.


Why should I support Operation Smile?

Children around the world born with cleft lips and cleft palates have been waiting their whole lives for our help. Your support helps us make a lasting difference to the lives of children, families and communities around the world.

We have over 30 years’ experience in mobilising medical professionals from all over the world to treat children with facial deformities. We bring together the latest, most effective practices and training to deliver safe surgery and the impact of our work is lasting. We leave behind a legacy of trained medical staff, surgical equipment and professional partnerships that work year-round to ensure more children are healed and more lives are changed.

Do you receive any government funding?

We do not receive any government funding and our work is only made possible because of the support we get from our generous supporters.

Can I donate to a specific project/country?

While we are very grateful for any donations we receive, we prefer that funds are unrestricted. This enables us to send money to where it is needed the most and helps to keep administration costs low.

If you would like to fundraise for a specific issue or country we can, of course, usually accommodate this. Please call us on 020 3475 5126 and we will happily discuss the options available with you.

Can I support a particular child and is there any way to stay in touch with them?

Operation Smile’s goal is to provide life-changing surgery for children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates and we have chosen to focus on the delivery of free surgery to children. The costs of administration when matching a donor with a child are high especially when tracking and following individuals over an extended period of time.

We are committed to helping as many children as possible and regularly capture pictures and stories as part of our post-operative programme when we check on the progress of children in the year following their surgery. We will regularly share these stories and images with supporters so they can feel connected to the children whose lives they have helped transform.

Do you comply with official standards in fundraising?

As a member of the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), Operation Smile agrees to fundraise in accordance with the FRSB Fundraising Promise and the Institute of Fundraising Codes of Fundraising Practice. We use the FRSB logo on all of our fundraising materials to demonstrate our commitment to best fundraising practice. We also have a complaints system which follows the FRSB guidelines.

What should I do if I have a complaint about Operation Smile’s fundraising practice?

To ensure we deal with complaints about any of our fundraising activities efficiently and effectively, we follow a procedure provided by the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB). If you have a complaint about our fundraising, please call 020 3475 5126 or email info@operationsmile.org.uk

We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 2 working days. We will then commit to investigating and responding to your complaint as quickly as possible. Following our response, if you are still not happy with the outcome of your complaint, you can contact the FRSB.


I see that Operation Smile has celebrity ambassadors. Does my gift help pay for celebrity “endorsers”?

Our Smile Ambassadors not only bring awareness to our cause but they do it from the heart. The celebrities that support Operation Smile are not paid. In addition, many have participated on medical projects and made financial contributions.