Sharing the power of a smile: New interactive learning center looks to educate students about global surgical nonprofit

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Students will get to experience the sights and the sounds of the Philippines, all without leaving Virginia Beach, to learn about the important work one global surgical nonprofit does for children around the world.

The new Anthony and Hideko Burgess Interactive Learning Center has been years in the making at Operation Smile.

Operation Smile has been providing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries to children from around the world for decades.

Co-founder Kathy Magee says the mission of the center is to expose local students to their work and broaden their understanding of the medical disparities of people around the world.

“You will understand what it’s like to live in a hut, go on a jeepney for maybe two days’ transportation to get to a hospital,” she said.

Co-founder Dr. Bill Magee the immersive experience takes students on a journey to open their eyes to the struggles families and children go through to receive transformative cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries.

“If we can get that discussion going and that emotion going, reason leads to conclusion, but it’s emotion that leads to action,” he said. “Until you get a tear in your eye, you’re not really listening.”

Dan Burgess says his parents would be beyond proud to have their names tied to something so transformative.

He says he hopes students learn the importance of giving back through the center.

“There is no greater joy than the joy of giving,” he said. “There really isn’t and maybe they will take that away from this and incorporate that in their lives.”

Staff members hope they can get students from Hampton Roads in to learn about all of these smiling faces by this fall.

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