One young woman’s journey to receive surgery for a cleft lip has opened the eyes of students participating in the student-led collaborative through the ISSN and Future Generations Now.

The winter cohort of students were introduced to the story of Faustina, a 17-year-old from Ghana who was born with a cleft lip, by Melany Bishop the program manager for The Anthony L. & Hideko S. Burgess Interactive Learning Center at Operation Smile. With a focus on understanding empathy and recognizing perspectives, students were given the opportunity to “walk in Faustina’s shoes” as they heard her story and how she was challenged and bullied as a child because of her cleft lip. Meanwhile, students were also introduced to the decisions and pressures Faustina and her family faced when preparing to travel to receive the free medical care provided by Operation Smile.

“Through sharing the story of Faustina, a real Operation Smile patient, we hope to build empathy for our patients, their families and the challenges they face in receiving the surgery they need and deserve,” says Melany. “Through this experience, students’ eyes are opened to the needs in the world around them, and how they as young people can take action and be of service in making a positive impact in the world.”

Students participating in the student-led collaborative are learning how to investigate the world, recognize and understand perspectives, communicate ideas and take action as part of the ISSN’s four domains of global competency. The students are meeting throughout February and March during synchronous and asynchronous sessions designed to support them as they develop community and issue-based projects.