Group of students saves 29 children in one semester

Editor’s Note: Thousands of French people, especially the young, go abroad each year on solidarity initiatives, the English website of Le Monde Diplomatique, a France-based international paper, reported. Volunteering as understood in France, according to one article on the website, “is neither charity work, nor paid employment: it is a hybrid that combines the commitment and giving of the former with the efficiency and professionalism of the latter.” Julien Philippe, our contributor from France, proved this as he was concluding his undergraduate studies in Business at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Greater New York City this past May. In the following article, he recounts his “rewarding” accomplishment from his last semester abroad.

Teaneck, N.J. — During my final semester of studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in northern New Jersey, a group of classmates and I devoted our capstone management class, Managing Projects and Organizations, to charity work. The mission was to raise funds for Operation Smile, a not-for-profit medical service located in Virginia.

We aimed at amassing $2,000 online and about $10,000 by holding a number of fundraising and awareness-spreading events throughout the final semester. However, our ultimate goal, as a group, was to inspire and change lives. 

The before and after photos of Lucas, a child who was treated through Operation Smile. PHOTO CREDIT: Imgarcade website.

The before and after photos of Lucas, a child who was treated through Operation Smile. PHOTO CREDIT: Imgarcade website.

Operation Smile works on a global scale to fix children’s facial deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates. The organization establishes public and private partnerships that ensure maintainable healthcare structures for children and families in need.

“Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate,” according to the official website of Operation Smile. The organization has helped treat cleft cases in at least 61 countries through credentialed surgical volunteers.

Most children suffering from these facial deformities have breathing, eating, speaking, and infection issues. Moreover, the children are often excluded from their communities, and are therefore not able to live regular lives.

Our senior project, dubbed FDU Smiles, helped fund the operations of 29 children with cleft lips, and has been an unforgettable learning experience for each one of us. “It was the perfect opportunity to couple management principles and previous group-work with a benevolent goal,” participating student Miles Cutler from FDU’s Madison campus said. “The project also helped me cooperate with teammates who share different values and ideas than me. I learned that I can take on a lot of responsibility, across several different fields and maintain productivity and efficiency.”

Professor Kent Fairfield and Julien Philippe. PHOTO CREDIT: PATRICIA SANDER

Professor Kent Fairfield and Julien Philippe. PHOTO CREDIT: PATRICIA SANDER

Another student, Luis Flores, from the university’s Metropolitan campus, said: “The project made me see the world differently and understand that there are real world issues that are much more serious than the problems we ponder over.”

Flores also said that the experience broadened his ability to bring a team together and work towards a common goal.

We put a lot of effort into accomplishing our mission in a short period of time and we succeeded. However, we all agree that we could not have done it without the guidance of two accomplished professors, Kent Fairfield and Gerard Farias. They oversaw the project as part of our course that required a challenging community service project.

Fairfield, who was the first to integrate this approach into his teaching, recently spoke to Global Young Voices about the experience. “This kind of ‘service-learning’ project deepens their ability to ‘learn by doing’ in management while providing vital services to others,” he said. “Such projects provide a vehicle for them to show their compassion.”

The professor explained how students, through community service, have to deal with organizing themselves into a viable organization. “They confront the challenge of building a collaborative organization and overcoming problems to create deliverables for a real client,” he said.

Raising over $7,100, we organized many different events, including a charity lunch and dinner, a charity concert, bake sales, a basketball tournament, an online donation link, a wristbands’ sale, and canvassing.

(From left to right) Alex Alonso, Luis Flores, Julien Philippe, Kevin Jackson, and Tyler Hardy. PHOTO CREDIT: GLOBAL YOUNG VOICES / GERARD FARIAS

(From left to right) Alex Alonso, Luis Flores, Julien Philippe, Kevin Jackson, and Tyler Hardy. PHOTO CREDIT: GLOBAL YOUNG VOICES / GERARD FARIAS

 Students who worked with me on the project from FDU’s Metropolitan campus in Teaneck were Luis Flores, Kevin Jackson, Tyler Hardy, and Alex Alonso, while Miles Cutler, Carl Kazmirek, Jessie Hall, Bianca Johnson, and Sean Krakower participated from FDU Madison.

Our bi-campus project was successful despite a few setbacks. One of the key challenges we faced was bringing all the team members’ ideas together. It was important to ensure that group agreed on key elements in order to move ahead to reach our common goal.

As a result of our involvement with FDU Smiles, I am pleased to say that this experience allowed us to learn about the value of supporting philanthropic causes, but more importantly, about our potential as human beings to effect change. 

There is nothing more gratifying than helping people in need and seeing their lives change.

“As long as there are people in this world who need help, there should always be service learning projects like the one we had,” Cutler said. “It connects students with those less fortunate in a way no other in-classroom experience can.”