Denville Township — For many students, summer vacation is best spent on the beach, enjoying the surf or traveling to a new and exotic location.

Brady Hishmeh, a Morris Catholic junior, will spend part of his summer in a very different location: Ethiopia. Hishmeh, of Kinnelon, a member of “Operation Smile’s” student program, will spend 10 days in Ethiopia serving as a volunteer on a medical mission.

Operation Smile is a nonprofit medical service organization founded in 1982 that works to provide cleft lip and palate repair surgeries free to children worldwide as well as develop cultural awareness.

“I have always known about it (Operation Smile) because of growing up with cleft,” Hishmeh explains. “In eighth grade a girl told my class about her mission story, which inspired me and made me want to get involved. So I sought out what I had to do to go on one of the trips.”

After completing some research and learning more about Operation Smile, Hishmeh decided to attend a leadership conference in Ireland last summer.

“They allow you to fundraise for Ireland, so I collected money from my family and friends,” Hishmeh says.

The conference included keynote speakers and team building exercises to strengthen the leadership qualities of attendees. Those who participated in the conference were then given the responsibility of starting their own student-run clubs at their school.

Hishmeh started “Operation Smile” this year at Morris Catholic by petitioning to the school executive team for approval.

“We’re still starting off,” Hishmeh says, “For our club, I just hope that we can do good. I want to spread awareness and raise money.”

Morris Catholic’s club donates the money it collects or uses the funds to support future fundraising efforts. According to the Operation Smile website, $240 helps provide surgery to a child with a cleft condition and as little as 60 cents a day can make a huge difference in supporting children with cleft conditions.

After Hishmeh attended the Operation Smile conference in Ireland and started the club at Morris Catholic, he then applied for mission training by submitting a video explaining why he wanted to be involved with the organization. Three hundred applicants applied for mission training and only 35 were selected, Hishmeh being one of them.

Once Hishmeh was accepted into the program, he attended another leadership conference at the Operation Smile headquarters in Virginia Beach. It was there that he learned that for his medical mission he would be visiting Ethiopia in June to support educational efforts there.

In addition to educating families on dental hygiene therapies, care and nutrition, Hishmeh will spend time interacting and playing with children during pre and post-operation. Operation Smile volunteers often visit schools and orphanages during medical missions. As a mission trainee, Hishmeh will be required to video tape his trip and then show it to his peers when he returns to further establish Operation Smile’s mission within the Morris Catholic Community.

“My mission partner is Lawrence and he is from California,” Hishmeh says of his mission. “I have made a lot of new friends and met a lot of people I definitely wouldn’t have,” he added.

Hishmeh’s experience with Operation Smile has been hugely positive so far and he plans on staying involved with the program in college and beyond.

“I definitely want to stay involved in helping any way I can. I know that as an adult you can become a sponsor and attend mission trips,” Hismeh says, “I would definitely look forward to doing that.”

Source: New Jersey Hills

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