Outreach for Cleft Palate Patients
National Honor Society (NHS) members worked together in the 2016–17 school year on a partnership with Operation Smile, which helps low-income people overseas in need of surgery for a cleft lip, cleft palate, or other facial deformity undergo surgery at no cost. The organization also helps patients’ families and communities.
- A digital space (such as Google docs) or large craft area for brainstorming
- A sign-up sheet for specific donation items
- Boxes set up around the school for collections
- A volunteer driver to transport donations to the closest Operation Smile location
Estimated Time Required
Three meeting periods, most likely after school, along with extra time for advertising the project, collection of items, and packing to ship.
Session #1: In the first meeting, the NHS officers, in collaboration with the other members, should work together to outline the basic plan for the project. During our first meeting, officers asked the members to brainstorm what could be brought for families of patients and how these items could be collected. We asked questions like “What is most necessary for healthy living?” or “How can we make the biggest impact?” and allowed the members to answer freely. We decided that to help the patients most directly, we could collect art supplies for pre-surgery wait times and post-surgery recovery times. We also attempted to expand the project to not only help the patients themselves, but also the families of the patients, and in some cases the community, by collecting and donating toiletries and other necessities. (Many of these communities have multiple people who go through the surgical process in a short period of time.) Even though these procedures are cost-free, there is still planning and stress involved, and our intervention in the community allows the families to enjoy some relief from their worries. The efforts of our NHS chapter affected the lives of many in a positive way—which was our ultimate goal.
Session #2: In the second meeting, we assigned members certain items to collect and planned a day at the end of the month as the final collection day. We also used this time to brainstorm how to further help families of the patients. We decided to collect vitamins later in the school year. Other ideas included collecting home toiletry kits and school supplies. We then worked to spread the word and collect the craft supplies, as well as educate people on cleft palates.
Session #3: In the final meeting, we gathered all of the craft supplies and packaged them for shipping to a country in Latin America. We also planned for the future to collect vitamins and outdoor sports equipment (such as bikes and skateboards) for the children of the patients and their families. The NHS officers also interacted with some of the doctors who travel with Operation Smile and began creating relationships with the organization.
One of the most important parts of any project is looking back and reflecting on its impact. We as a chapter require all of our members to complete a form that asks them what impact they made and what stood out to them after each project. The students can include in this document other members who were instrumental in making their project successful. This helps us as officers understand the inclusiveness of the project and who else benefited from the experience. We keep these reflective review forms on file to help new members get inspired for future community service projects.
Noah Sperber and Camila Cardona are president and treasurer, respectively, of the National Honor Society chapter at Riviera Preparatory School in Miami, FL.