A smile comes to Pepperdine

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College and high school students from around the world will be coming to Malibu to work on team building activities and to learn about the power of volunteerism.

By Andrisa Anderson/Special to The Malibu Times

A five-day conference to prepare college and high school students for overseas medical missionary work will take place at Pepperdine University beginning on Tuesday. Pepperdine students along with hundreds from around the world, including six from Malibu, will participate in Operation Smile’s International Leadership Conference.The missionary program corrects facial deformities of children in developing countries.

Twenty-nine students from California were chosen from Malibu, San Juan Capistrano and Pacific Palisades, and will attend missions in the Philippines, India and Brazil.

The student conference will provide training in education, global awareness and fund-raising, allowing the students and adult sponsors to effectively teach basic health care to families in missionary countries, which include the Philippines, Kenya, Cambodia, Brazil, Jordan and China.

Former student volunteers will make presentations during the workshop. Previous volunteers say the missionary work changes one’s outlook about volunteering and many return to the countries to provide further support through Operation Smile. Guest speakers will include Danny Clark, contributing author to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and Jose Villegas, coordinator of Operation Smile’s Speakers Bureau and a former patient.

Medical professionals participate in the program year round, performing operations on outcast children in these third-world countries who may suffer from cleft lips, cleft palates and facial burns and cancers.

Since 1982, Operation Smile has been helping families and children worldwide, including the United States, with free medical care and after care. Volunteers also train residents to be local medical professionals and provide medical equipment. President Ronald Regan honored cofounders Dr. William and Kathleen Magee for their work. Celebrities and the cosmetic company Sephora have assisted in raising money for the nonprofit program in past years. The program receives 80 percent of its funding from donations.