The largest free programme in the 20-year history of Operation Smile Vietnam is expected to bring smiles to the faces of 2,000 Vietnamese underprivileged and disadvantaged children until Nov. 14.

More than 300 international medical volunteers from Vietnam , the US and other countries will donate their time to conduct free surgery to change the lives of children and young adults, who are suffering from hare lips, cleft palates, dental problems and other facial deformities.

The US-based Operation Smile is marking its 20-year partnership in Vietnam with the 10-day programme, starting on Nov. 6, with free medical and dental treatment screenings at 15 sites throughout Vietnam , followed by one week of surgical and dental treatments for selected patients.

Headquarter in Virginia , Operation Smile was launched 27 years ago and has a presence in 50 countries in addition to Vietnam , where its history began in 1989. In a quest to help normalise US-Vietnam relations, Operation Smile sent a team of 38 medical volunteers, including seven American War veterans, to Hanoi . The team of American and Vietnamese surgeons worked together to repair the cleft lips and palates of 100 Vietnamese children.

Over the past 20 years, more than 20,000 Vietnamese children have received operations and more than 150,000, other kinds of surgery.

“Vietnamese organisations and authorities are committed to doing the best to raise awareness nationally and internationally and cooperate with Operation Smile to help underprivileged children,” said Don Tuan Phong of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations at a press conference in Hanoi on Nov. 4.

The launch also saw the presence of UNiCEF/Operation Smile Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan who is in Hanoi to support the programme. The martial arts movie star said he hoped his presence would help spread the Operation Smile’s message to everyone who can contribute to helping disadvantaged children.

“We need the whole city and whole world to help those (underprivileged) children, who really touched me. That’s what I’m here for,” said Jackie Chan.

Operation Smile is also committed to continuing their presence in Vietnam to help provide normal lives for children.

“We look forward to the next 20 years of helping children smile throughout Vietnam and we will try our best to give a smile to the last underprivileged child,” said co-founder and CEO of Operation Smile William Magee./.