Laughter is the best medicine for Operation Smile

Dr Clover-Ann Lee and Dr Ian Osborn, both volunteer anaesthetists for Operation Smile, assist a young patient.

Operation Smile South Africa is this year’s Jive Cape Town Funny Festival charity beneficiary for the second time after a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Operation Smile helps thousands of children with a cleft palate or cleft lip, the world’s fourth most common birth defect. Since 2006, the organisation has delivered multiple surgical programmes across sub-Saharan Africa.

“It’s been tough to resurrect the project,“ said Jive Cape Town Funny Festival director Eddy Cassar. ”However, I felt we needed to go ahead and keep the Jive Cape Town Funny Festival brand out there. The synergy between laughter and smiling is obvious.”

The 2019 festival collected enough money for five operations, he said.

According to Operation Smile’s marketing and support coordinator Ronel Visagie, a cleft-lip operation costs about R5 500 whereas cleft-palate surgery is a lot more as multiple surgeries are required as the child’s mouth develops as they grow.

“Every rand and cent donated at the Jive Comedy Festival will go directly to helping Operation Smile give a person born with a cleft lip or cleft palate a new smile and the chance to live a happier and healthier future.”

Lungile Nkosi, 6, now has a smile that can light up a room after undergoing a cleft-lip surgical procedure.

Ms Visagie said Operation Smile worked alongside government and hospitals by bringing in specialist medical teams to perform cleft surgeries.

“There are currently 40 patients waiting for surgery in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape with more being referred each day.”

Mr Cassar said, “Collecting money from the audience for Operation Smile is one thing, but I have witnessed two medical professionals at the show donate their time to the charity, one a theatre sister and the other an anaesthesiologist.”

Chantel Erfort, editor-in-chief of the festival’s new media partner, Cape Community Media, said they were thrilled to be involved with an event that lifted people’s spirits – and gave back to charity.

“In a year that the world is finally starting to open up after two years of restricted movement due to the pandemic, CCM is excited to be a part of an event that not only gets artists back on the stage but also puts smiles on people’s faces.

“With Operation Smile being the charity partner, we are also helping the organisation fund surgery for children with cleft lips and palates so they can eat, breathe, speak – and smile – more easily. At every show there will be representatives of Operation Smile collecting donations during the interval, and there’s also a QR code in the festival programme that you can scan to make a donation with Snapscan.”

The Jive Cape Town Funny festival runs until Sunday July 3.