There is no better way to witness the incredible work Operation Smile does to change the lives of children living with cleft lip and cleft palate than joining us for one of our surgical programs. Selected high school students and interested adult sponsors accompany our surgical teams to clinics and facilities all over the world where these life-changing surgeries are taking place. Check out the information below for more details.

Welcome! We’re so glad you are interested in learning about the Student Programs Surgical Program Training Workshop.

After a hiatus of over 3 years, our Training Workshops are back! The name, schedule, and content of the workshop has been adapted somewhat from the previous incarnation, the Mission Training Workshop. However, the purpose is ultimately the same.

  1. To prepare student volunteers for their role as a member of a student team on international assignments.
  2. To understand the different assignments, the roles involved, the expectations placed upon volunteers, and the differences between locations in which we send student teams.
  3. To begin building the relationships with the staff, chaperones, and fellow students alongside whom they will be traveling and performing their duties.
  4. To gain a deeper understanding of the training modules we will implement as educators overseas, and begin brainstorming and designing the materials they will use to deliver those messages.
  5. To discover where and when their assignment will take place.

Operation Smile Student Programs continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to our program opportunities. Our priority is the safety and security of our students.

We remind everyone that they must first attend, or commit to attending our International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) to apply and be considered for Mission Training Workshop. Students that attended our virtual ISLC 2021 only qualify for Mission Training if they attended every session and completed each day’s feedback survey.


The three primary roles of the student team on surgical programs are:

▪ Relationship building: The student team plays a major role in comforting the patients throughout the program and connecting with them on a deeper level. In addition, the team collaborates with local student clubs and volunteers to share ideas, knowledge and experiences, offering support and strategizing over future endeavors.

▪ Program Support: Every program is different, and the needs of the team will change depending on the site. Staff – such as volunteer coordinators, medical records, post-operative nurses, and the kitchen team – will all need help with small, but key, tasks throughout the course of the program. We expect our student team to be proactive and seek out these opportunities and ensure the smooth running of the surgical program.

▪ Education: The student team teaches children and adults at the hospital and shelter. Students may also go on off-site visits to orphanages, schools, and more in the surrounding community. Educating and preparing the trip’s local populations on these basic healthcare topics will improve their quality of life.

To prepare students for these vital roles, we invite them to apply for Surgical Program Training Workshop. This is hosted twice a year: once in January at Operation Smile Global Headquarters in Virginia Beach, and once three days prior to our International Student Leadership Conference in July. During training, professionals train them in burn care, oral rehydration therapy, dental hygiene, hand-washing, nutrition, and hands-only CPR. This workshop gives attendees the confidence to teach this important information with patients, their families and others.


  • A rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior (at least 16 years of age)
  • An active member of an Operation Smile Student Club or founding member of an Operation Smile Club
  • Involved with Operation Smile for at least one year
  • Indicate dedicated participation and exceptional leadership
  • Demonstrate attendance at an International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC)
  • Students who are accepted into Surgical Program Training Workshop MUST be able to attend a surgical program prior to their high school graduation date
  • Students MUST meet all requirements in order to apply


On each program, students are accompanied by an adult student sponsor. Adults are invited to apply for Surgical Program Training Workshop. Adults applying must accept the responsibilities that accompany that role. During a medical mission, the student sponsor has many obligations, primarily:

  • Ensure the safety and security of the high school student team
  • The students are trained to teach the fundamentals of basic health care, informing local populations of skills that will improve quality of life; ensure student team teaches these health care modules and tally and report the number of presentations
  • Encourage the development and growth of the high school student team


  • An adult older than 26
  • Able to demonstrate previous involvement in Operation Smile
  • Involved for at least one year
  • Demonstrate attendance as an adult participant at an International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC)
  • Comfortable chaperoning two high school students in a foreign country
  • Sponsors MUST meet all requirements in order to apply

If accepted to Surgical Program Training Workshop, each participant will have a tuition fee of $200 USD to cover program costs. The fee to attend a surgical program is $1,000 USD and this covers all ground transportation in the program country, accommodation, and most meals. Participants will be responsible for the cost of their flights, travel documents such as passport and visa (Operation Smile will facilitate the visa process), required or updated vaccines to enter the country, some meals and their own incidentals.

Our Student Programs Summer Surgical Program Training Workshop will take place over July 15th and July 16th 2023, at the Decameron El Pueblo resort in Lima, Peru.

This two day workshop will take place immediately before the summer’s ISLC event. Participants will be asked to arrive on the evening on Friday July 14th, and will be met at Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) before being transported to the resort. After a night’s rest, students will be refreshed and ready to be trained over the remainder of the weekend, which will wrap up prior to the start of the ISLC conference.