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Pritika Swarup at an Operation Smile mission in Mozambique, 2019, photo courtesy of Operation Smile.

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Operation Smile

Intro: Meet Pritika Swarup

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Pritika Swarup understands the power of a smile.

Her smile—and accompanying positive attitude—propelled her throughout her career: first modeling, then majoring in financial economics at Columbia University and finally launching her Indian-inspired beauty brand Prakti. It’s why the 24-year-old entrepreneur (and #MAKEITHAPPEN woman) is a longtime ambassador with Operation Smile, our #VBGIVESBACK partner, which helps children born with cleft conditions through surgery and comprehensive care.

“Witnessing how an Operation Smile surgery transforms a child’s life is powerful. It is difficult to explain the change afterward, in a child’s personality,” says Swarup. “They have self-confidence and overall renewed optimism for their future.”

Inexplicably between studying, modeling and running her company, Swarup has found time to give back, having worked with the nonprofit since middle school. In that time, she has traveled around the world with the organization—from Africa to India to South America—as a volunteer during surgical programs..

All month long, Swarup will be sharing her stories from the frontlines. (The model-Ivy-Leaguer-CEO is adding another job title to her resume—guest editor!) Check back each week to hear more about her work with Operation Smile. First up, we hear how Swarup first became involved with the organization.

Swarup in with an Operation Smile patient in India, 2018, photo courtesy of Operation Smile.

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Q&A

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How did you become involved with Operation Smile?
The organization was founded in my hometown in Virginia, so I’ve had the opportunity to start at a very young. I was very engaged from the beginning, when I was in middle school—volunteering at local events, organizing bake sales and packing supplies for mission trips.

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Why is this cause important to you?
My passion for the cause only grew with time. I understand the challenges that craniofacial conditions create. They not only have physical ramifications—such as difficulty eating, speaking, and breathing—but an emotional and social impact. Young children can be bullied, isolated, and socially neglected, resulting in a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. The free surgical procedures administered by Operation Smile change the course of the lives of these children. I feel so fortunate to work with an organization that truly makes a difference.

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What led you to engage with the organization in a deeper way?
Witnessing how an Operation Smile surgery transforms a child’s life is powerful. It is difficult to explain the change afterward, in a child’s personality. They have self-confidence and overall renewed optimism for their future. I get so emotional about it because I have experienced this process with many children and their families. I have been on medical missions in India, Mozambique and, most recently, Peru with Operation Smile. Many of these children have no hope and I want to be able to change that; they should feel beautiful because they are beautiful.

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Another scene from Swarup's trip to India, 2018, photo courtesy of Operation Smile.

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