If you've been op shopping in Nambour, you've probably popped into Helping Children Smile, with its purple awning and smiley faces. It's an old-school op shop, with hand-made price tags and mostly older volunteers, and is an Aladdin's Cave of clothes, bric-a-brac and books at unbeatable prices.
But it's worth knowing about the charity of the same name because it's a Sunny Coast original!
MEDICAL MISSIONS – Helping Children Smile Inc. have been sending medical missions from the Sunshine Coast to the Philippines since 1996. Since then, they have helped restore the smiles and change the lives of over 900 children.
They provide reconstructive cleft lip and cleft palate surgery for Filipino children, sometimes adults, without any cost to the recipient and their family. This treatment is not available to many people in the Philippines due to poverty and lack of access to specialist surgery.
All surgical equipment is transported to the Philippines by the mission members so as not to incur any costs to the host hospital, which offers the use of its operating theatre, recovery and ward beds. For example, in their 2014 mission to Legaspi, HCS transported 65 pieces of luggage, screened 65 children and operated on 59 children.
The children and their parents travel many hours to receive the free surgery. When they know a mission is coming to their area they congregate at the host hospital from many remote regions.
Froilan Jr's mum keeps HCS regularly updated on his progress
The surgery they provide does more than repair the children's physical problem. These children would otherwise have limited opportunities to attend school and as adults, of finding work. After their surgery, they can look forward to a normal life.