Your Impact, 2020-21

Download Impact Report PDF WHY STUDENTS? BECAUSE THEY'RE UNSTOPPABLE. When Student Programs sees a need, it challenges students to address that need. And our student volunteers are so driven to serve, not even a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic could keep them from


When Student Programs sees a need, it challenges students to address that need.

And our student volunteers are so driven to serve, not even a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic could keep them from helping others.

You’ll see this and even more examples throughout this page, as we highlight our activities of the year and the students who made them possible.

OUR VISION: We believe in the power of youth to create a compassionate world.

OUR MISSION: Operation Smile Student Programs empowers youth globally through advocacy, education, leadership and service.


The pandemic may have cancelled their usual fundraising events, but that didn’t stop the club at the Frankfurt International School in Germany.

They just had to get a little creative, said club adviser Michelle Kaszuba.

They still found a way to celebrate their club’s annual “Smile Week,” when they share Operation Smile’s mission with the school community and hold their “Change for Change” fundraiser. Students and educators donated spare change to Operation Smile, rallying more than $3,000.

In response to the pandemic, the club made cards for local health care workers and joined in our Sending Hope campaign, fundraising for potential patients in Nicaragua.

“One of the greatest aspects of our club is that it is really organized and run by the student leaders and club members,” Michelle said. “… They are gaining real-world experience as they work to support a great organization that is changing the lives of so many.”


Our student volunteers play an integral role in furthering our vision and mission and serve as a continual source of inspiration. Operation Smile empowers youth globally through:

ADVOCACY: We inspire youth to be an active voice for communities around the world who lack access to safe, well-timed and effective surgery.

EDUCATION: We instill the value of teaching and learning to promote social responsibility through exposure to authentic experiences, diverse communities and global health care.

LEADERSHIP: We create the environment to empower youth to become globally-minded activators. We cultivate leadership by facilitating innovative and inspiring programs that teach valuable skills and grow confident leaders.

SERVICE: We empower youth to understand the importance of being an active participant in helping others locally and globally. We promote opportunities for youth to volunteer and take personal ownership of a cause.


When the world changed, the student team from the United Arab Emirates had to change, too.

They were in the middle of planning their second U-Lead – a small conference for students new to Operation Smile – when they had to suddenly switch to a virtual format.

Thanks to support from their peers from Latin America, the UAE team got the hang of it – and made the U-Lead model a success.

“I have learned so much about organizing a virtual event as a back-of-house member,” said student Naicy Thakki, referring to her role in supporting the U-Lead. “Be it building advertising plans, creating registration forms, or co-hosting Zoom meetings, a lot goes into the preparation for this three-day virtual event than one would expect.”

Despite all the challenges, and thanks to the inspiring nature of the U-Leads, the conference participants fundraised more than $7,000 through the year.


“Taking Action” is more than a feel-good title for an impact report. For us, it’s really just accurate.

In a year when many found themselves on the bench, our student volunteers got right to work. They did everything possible to help our patients, their families and our communities overcome the many challenges presented by COVID-19.

They got creative. Even as the world suffered from “Zoom fatigue,” our students across Latin America rallied almost 450 of their peers for an online leadership gathering over the weekend. The cost of admission was an item donation to Operation Smile in their country. Students rallied 6,070 surgical masks, 289 cans of powdered milk and more.

They got clever. Using the online Smile Fund platform, students across the U.S. notched almost $100,000 in virtual fundraisers alone.

And they took action. As part of our Serving Smiles campaign, students in Panama, Paraguay and 12 U.S. states provided more than 6,300 meals to health care workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic from April 2020 to February 2021.

And that’s just a start. Read on for more examples of their leadership, advocacy, service and education.


Operation Smile believes in the power of youth to create a more compassionate world. Instilling the value of volunteerism in students is not only an investment in the future of our organization, it’s also an investment in a better world.

Note: These figures were reported by student clubs via two surveys filled out by club leaders and their advisers – one in December 2020, and one in June 2021. Not every registered club responded to this survey and submitted their data.

For numbers representing our Latin American, Caribbean and international clubs, our associates submitted what data they had available.

Consequently, while we’re very proud to share these numbers, these figures ultimately do not capture the full picture – these numbers are almost certainly higher than reported here.

Whenever possible, this document will be updated with additional figures as collected from this reporting period.


Two-year-old Chester of Nicaragua is what our “Sending Hope” campaign was all about.

Our student volunteers delivered a meal kit to his family’s home about 300 kilometers from Managua – a meal kit that was made possible by our students’ fundraisers in Italy. And on June 5, Chester was finally able to receive the surgery he needed for his cleft lip.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on surgical care delivery in the countries where we work, and our patients and their families had to wait for care to resume. But knowing that proper nutrition and lack of illness are key in making sure a patient is healthy enough to receive surgery, our student volunteers were determined to make sure that patients in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay don’t have to wait any longer for care. Students on three continents banded together to provide meal kits and essential care items that would help ensure our potential patients will be healthy enough for surgery when their opportunity comes.

“The pandemic has struck really tough on the patients, since most were ready to get their smiles last April and have now been waiting for over a year,” said student volunteer Ana Isabel de la Guardia of Panama, after helping to prepare and deliver meal kits. “… To know that even one of them will be getting ready for their surgery with the items we donated puts a smile in a smile on my face – one that they will be getting soon, too.”

Student volunteers took part from the following countries: Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, the United States – the latter with 28 clubs supporting from 12 states.