AT LEAST 1,000 children living with cleft lip or palate will soon be able to literally smile at the world. Hong Kong-based retail group AS Watson and international children’s medical charity Operation Smile are working together to provide safe and free surgeries to children living with facial deformities in Southeast Asia.
The global CSR campaign, dubbed “Give a Smile,” mobilizes Watsons’ business units across Europe and Asia to raise funds for the cause and to elevate public awareness of cleft issues.
“AS Watson Group believes that our presence serves a greater good, wherever we are. Small acts of kindness can make a big difference to people’s lives, and we are delighted that we can help make a big difference to the lives of children with facial deformities by giving them a smile,” said Malina Ngai, Chief Operating Officer of AS Watson and a member of the company’s global CSR committee.
Transformative power of a smile
This year’s move to support Operation Smile on a global scale is inspired by the long-standing partnership between the local units of Watsons and Operation Smile in the Philippines. The two organizations have brought hope and healing to over a thousand Filipino children and young adults with facial cleft deformities. Over course of the of six years, Watsons Philippines has donated a total of 15 million pesos to fund 12 local and international surgical missions in various parts of the country.
“This partnership gives so much meaning and purpose to what we do as a brand and enterprise. It’s simply transformative. The best way to show we care is to help those who need it most,” said Robert Sun, regional managing director of AS Watson Group.
Back in 2012, Sun chanced upon a picture of a child with cleft lip who received free surgery from Operation Smile. This started the partnership between two groups with the goal of helping people transform their lives by putting a smile on their faces.
The world’s largest international health and beauty retailer is leveraging its extensive network of over 14,000 stores in 24 markets to ensure the global “Give A Smile” campaign cuts across various online and offline channels.
Empowering employees as advocates for children with cleft
Sun emphasized that more than providing financial assistance, the campaign also empowers Watsons employees to be advocates for children with cleft lip and palate. Watsons sends manpower to Operation Smile’s local and international missions so the employees get firsthand experience of how free surgery helps indigent people with cleft deformities.
This year alone, Watsons Philippines mobilized nearly 100 employees from its stores and head offices to participate in Operation Smile’s international missions in Dumaguete, Iloilo, and Tacloban cities. The volunteers cared for hundreds of children and their families by assisting them during the screening, and easing their anxieties before and after the surgeries.
“It was a different kind of experience to hear stories straight from parents and children who struggle with facial deformities. It was a blessing to share their joy of getting access to free surgery,” said Cecile Canlas, Senior Marketing Manager of Watsons Philippines. Canlas was among the close to 40 Watsons employees from Manila, Cebu, and Leyte who came to Tacloban city to help out in the medical mission from November 11 to 16.
Above and beyond the “look good, feel great” mantra
Watsons is also pushing initiatives to engage its customers to help Operation Smile and educate more people about issues faced by people with cleft lip and palate. “We want our customers to be influencers for Operation Smile. We want them to talk more about the cause and motivate others to help in any way they can,” shared Canlas.
In the Philippines, those who buy Watsons branded products are able to help because the company is donating proceeds from the sales to Operation Smile. Loyal customers also get the chance to donate their Watsons card loyalty points to the children’s charity. The global “Give a Smile” campaign runs until 2019.