In 1982, Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee, his wife, traveled to the Philippines with a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and cleft palates. They discovered hundreds of children ravaged by deformities, and although they helped many children, the volunteers were forced to turn away the majority of those who sought help. The Magees saw the need and Operation Smile was born.
The Singapore Story
The seeds for the Asia Resource Centre were sown in November 2003, when Gary Loh, a successful private equity investor, attended a charity dinner at the Orchard Hotel in Singapore, organized by his long-time friend Tony Tan.
He had only recently celebrated the birth of his beautiful daughter, and was in high spirits. But that one night changed his views on life. A video was shown of an Operation Smile medical mission in Cambodia, and he felt a pang of discomfort when he realized that not all parents could share his joy of seeing their child smile and many parents had no means to correct that.
Gary thought, “How lucky I was in terms of my beautiful healthy child. I am sure every parent has a right to have a beautiful healthy child.”
Just a few months later, in early 2004, a friend had cancelled his wedding, which was booked to take place at the Four Season’s Hotel. Gary salvaged the situation, convincing his friend to donate the booking to hold an Operation Smile charity dinner.
The money raised was channeled to a mission to Cambodia in which Gary took part, and which further sealed his commitment to Operation Smile.
Remembers Gary, “I was the errand boy, running around, sweeping floors and distributing toys to visiting child beneficiaries.” He was deeply impressed with mission’s degree of professionalism.
In 2006 Gary organized an Operation Smile Charity Golf Tournament. The proceeds were again channelled to a Cambodia mission.
By this time Gary learnt about Dr Vincent Yeow, a renowned plastic surgeon with strong philanthropic interests, who was seperately organising similar charity medical missions since 1995. Many of Gary’s friends and associates had urged him to meet Dr Yeow, and in the end it was a chance meeting at a golf course that brought the two together. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Their combined passion inspired Tony Tan, Khing Go, Stefanie Yuen Thio, Christine Pillsbury and Dr Beng Teck Liang, all successful professionals, to get involved in the cause and accept memberships to the Board. Thus Operation Smile Singapore, one of the region’s key resource centres was born.