Working Together to Bring Smiles After Surgical Treatments

Wesley (far left) and Fernanda (second from left) with coordinators from Operação Sorriso who helped the team develop the project

After volunteering with Operation Smile at a hospital in northeastern Brazil and seeing the amount of support and resources patients needed to recover from surgery, Universidade Potiguar (UnP) Physical Therapy students Wesley Fernandes de Castro and Fernanda Mariany started “Sorrindo de Orelha a Orelha”, a project which supports children and adolescents who have undergone surgery to correct cleft lip. 

While studying at UnP, Wesley and Fernando spent time volunteering with the NGO Operation Smile on a regular basis. During their assignments, they often spoke with mothers of children who had undergone operations for cleft lip, and found that many families either lacked support or were unable to afford support after surgery to help their children fully recover. They decided to take matters into their own hands, and opened Sorrindo de Orelha a Orelha (Smiling from Ear to Ear) in January 2018, on their campus.    

“Safe post-surgical treatment and control is extremely important, but for many families, it is simply not even an option,” said Wesley. “We believe that every child has the right to be provided with exceptional post-surgical treatment. All children deserve to be treated as if they were our own. That is why we started Sorrindo de Orelha a Orelha.”  

In Brazil, one in 650 babies is born with cleft lip. A recent study estimates there are over 300,000 people suffering from this condition, with 6,000 new cases every year. This project not only provides support to individuals going through treatment, but it educates patients and their families on pre- and post-operative activities that promote faster healing and the rapid integration of the individual into society.  

Sorrindo de Orelha a Orelha operates from its main location on the Mossoró campus at UnP. Services are provided free of charge by UnP students in physical education, physiotherapy, nursing, nutrition and psychology programs with oversight from certified staff and faculty. The project provides continued care to patients as long as it is necessary. While currently only working with post-treatment, the group plans to begin working on pre-treatment education very soon.