Thursday, October 21, 1999

Washington College Student Speaks About "Operation Smile"

Chestertown, MD — Erin Tottenham, a senior English major who interned last summer with Operation Smile in Norfolk, Va., and Lima, Peru, will talk about her experience in an illustrated lecture, at 7 p.m. Weds. Oct. 20 in the Casey Academic Center Forum.

"For a long time, I have wanted to join the Peace Corps after I graduate, and this organization seemed phenomenal," she says. "They reach out to poor, developing, disease-ridden countries. The children they help deserve to be relieved of at least one of their burdens." She said she wanted to be picked for the internship as soon as she heard it was available.

Tottenham noted that the children served by Operation Smile are often considered within their cultures to be not just handicapped, but cursed. "I was taught and fully believe everyone has a purpose on this earth. These children have so much weight on their shoulders, and sometimes these deformities cause them to be ostracized--one more difficulty in their already hard lives," she says. Her values of acceptance and the mission of Operation Smile meshed, "It was an amazing experience--difficult and beautiful. The children, families and the volunteers and staff were very warm and welcoming. I was privileged to take part in such selfless philanthropic efforts."

Washington College is the first school to establish an internship program with Operation Smile, which are funded by 1968 alum Richard Holstein, a pediatric dentist. A not-for-profit, volunteer medical services organization, Operation Smile offers reconstructive facial surgery to indigent children and young adults in 16 developing countries and in the United States and is based in Norfolk, Va. Since 1982, Operation Smile has treated 50,000 children here and abroad.

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