South Dakota 4-H Community Service Project Back »

In June, the delegates of Teen Leadership Conference endorsed the 4-H Youth Council’s suggestion of selecting Operation Smile as the state-wide community service project for 2011-2012.

It is estimated that one in every 800 children in the United States will have a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. In developing countries, it is one in every 500 children. A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth. A cleft lip may be accompanied by an opening in the bones of the upper jaw and/or the upper gum. A cleft palate occurs when the two sides of the palate do not join together, resulting in an opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft lip and palate can occur on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral). A child can suffer from a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both.

The physical effects from cleft deformities are not merely cosmetic. Children with these deformities can suffer a multitude of medical problems including ear disease, chronic ear infections, malnutrition, dental problems, and difficulties in speech development. The emotional effects from these deformities are also devastating to children. Children often hide away from the world, their self-esteem shattered. Cruel remarks and stares from other children result in many of these children never attending school or simply “dropping out” in the early stages of their educational development.

Through volunteers, Operation Smile is able to correct cleft lips and palates for $240 per operation. The 4-H Youth Council challenges every 4-H Club in South Dakota to join them in funding 25 operations this year.

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