West Jordan nurse travels the world to help children with cleft palate
Kristi Nieswender travels the world to help children born with a cleft palate. She got involved with Operation Smile because she was born with a cleft palate. The first half of her life, she had occasional surgery and had to deal with the repercussions of a cleft palate.
Nieswender is a local registered nurse from West Jordan. For nearly two decades, she has volunteered for Operation Smile. This year, she participated as a conference nurse in the International Student Leadership Conference held at the University of Miami July 18-24.
Kristi is amazed at the organization’s ability to continually empower its patients, global youth and local community.
When Kristi first heard about Operation Smile, she didn’t want to get involved. But she realized that with all she had been through and having faced the challenges of being a cleft patient herself, she felt she had something to offer.
“I felt I had to get involved in this organization and give back, give hope to the parents in the community whose children are struggling with a cleft, especially the third world countries where we are going to help, because they don’t have the infrastructure to perform these life-changing surgeries for their children,” Nieswender said.
Nieswender travels to Third World countries as a developing volunteer. She has been in 18 missions in different countries.
“We are going to third world countries to help with surgeries, planting a seed of opportunity for nurses, doctors and plastic surgeons throughout the mission, on how to perform surgeries, take care of patients, so that they can eventually be self-sufficient, and the country will be able to provide these surgical opportunities to children in its own country. We ensure the education of the country and we also take care of the children.
Nieswender does more than volunteer work, she is also a nurse. “I’m the upside-down nurse, because I actually started Operation Smile in my early twenties when I was in a different career. Luckily for me, there were a few positions in the mission that were not for medical professionals, and I was able to participate in this method and participate in several missions and help these children. I realized that I was so happy when I do these missions, then I went into nursing, a second career later in life. I did humanitarian projects that pushed me to become a nurse,” she said.
Nieswender saw many children who were helped, and it changed his life and that of the children. “It’s my passion, it’s my life and I love it so much and making a difference and trying to touch children’s lives as much as they touch mine.”
Operation Smile has been hosting the International Student Leadership Conference for 30 years. “This program encourages high school students to help them get involved in service projects, fundraisers and community involvement. It is a great development opportunity for students to see opportunities in the medical field. So many students go through this organization and end up going into speech therapy, dentistry, plastic surgery, pediatric nursing. If the medical field is not what they want to do, they learn great leadership skills,” Nieswender said.
Operation Smile has been around since 1982. Operation Smile believes in the values of helping with love and compassion for others. They are committed to living a life of integrity, trust and leadership. Operation Smile doesn’t want any child or parent to feel alone, they bring hope to families with cleft surgery that is safe and the best available.
Visit operationsmile.org for more information. λ