Cambodia - Operation Smile

Aug 18, 2004
If you thought that Phnom Penh based Jim CA2, a frequent contributor to this GT Rider site, is a good contact in Phnom Penh, the story just got even better. This guy Jim CA2 is most certainly “the very best guy in the whole of Cambodia”.

In the April of 2005 edition of Phnom Penh’s Bayon Pearnik magazine on

Jim penned the article “You Can Change a Life” about the presence in Phnom Penh last month of Operation Smile. This is a US based NGO made up of surgeons who donate their time and surgical skills to repair cleft lips. It is something that affects kids for life, and something that can be repaired. Operation Smile has been to Vietnam many times in recent years and just completed their 4th visit to Cambodia. See their web page about this visit on ... country=KH

In the future, Jim CA2 can update this thread as he sees fit, and he probably will. In his article, he suggests that he will be visiting is fellow business owners in Phnom Penh to ask for their help with this story.

The initiative is taken here to point out that other GT Riders can also help out here, and for no money. During your ride in the Cambodian countryside, if you come across a kid who has a cleft lip, make a note about your location or hit your GPS button. Back in Phnom Penh, look up Jim at his California Café on Quai Sisowath, just down the street from the Foreign Correspondents Club. See his web site on

He will take it from there. Quite clearly, Jim CA2 is “the very best guy in the whole of Cambodia”. Is it also true that Jim CA2 serves up the very best breakfast in Phnom Penh? The Operation Smile web site is on


Jan 3, 2004
I appreciate your kind comments but I by far am not the best guy in the whole of cambodia. I just do a small part to contribute to a country that has given me a good life style. Cambodia has a lot to do with community and I find it here on this board, with riders that come thru my place, my neigbors, op smile, other bar and restaurant owners, or just the people I see in the country side from time to time. I think this is the attraction of this place as it still exist unlike fast paced america or other european nations.

As for op smile, if you need a tax shelter and are looking for a good charity, op smile is a pretty good one. the docs went to the hospital on the back of motos and not in landcruisers. you can cut a check to the organization (address on their website) but to ensure that it goes to the right place write on the check for in country use(cambodia vn thailand etc) .

I used to have stickers in khmer that I made up that I would post in markets around the country advertising the groups return but the local contacts have moved on, but in the event that anyone does come across a cleft lip or palate on their rides here, all info that you can get helps, name phone commune age etc and I'll be sure to hang on to it for future missions.
Aug 18, 2004
Yeah, JimCA2, you are the best of the best.

Operation Smile performs 150 surgeries

By Brendan Brady

Nine -year-old Cheang Chamrong, patient #253, has made his way to the most important station in the medical evaluation line: the plastic surgeons.

Australian doctor David Chong and Canadian doctor David Jewer determine that Cheang has a cleft lip only - his palate is intact - and will receive Priority 1 status, given his youth and otherwise good health. He's lucky because that status all but guarantees he will receive surgery. Others are rejected because they lack the health to undergo surgery or have a deformity too severe.

About one in 500 children are born with a cleft in the developing world and over 20,000 children and adults in Cambodia have clefts.

In honor of its 25th anniversary, Operation Smile organized a medical mission in 25 countries November 8-16 with free treatment for 5,000 children born with cleft lips and palates whose families can't afford surgery.

In Cambodia, the charity mission at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital planned to operate on about 150 children, aided by the efforts of 75 medical volunteers.

During two days of screening, doctors profiled 269 candidates who came from around Cambodia. Most had never seen a doctor before, said Fleur Childs, Director of Operation Smile Cambodia. The doctors assessed the patients' condition and assigned a priority.

"He is very embarrassed. He does not want to go to school because they laugh at him," Bin Sophon said of his son Cheang. "If they sew him up nice, he'll go to school without being embarrassed and be able to get good grades."

"It's difficult because they talk about me. If they could sew up my mouth, it would be easy, I would not be embarrassed," said Cheang.

Clefts can make eating and drinking difficult, lead to ear and dental problems, as well as inhibit a child's speech development.

Speech pathologist Alice Smith said sometimes children with cleft lips and palates are not allowed to go to school because the other children have problems understanding them. Buddhist precepts do not make life easier for people in Cambodia with such defects. Even Sophon said, "I believe that people who have sinned in past lives are born with deformities and other problems."

Parents at the hospital emphasized, more than anything, wanting their children to attend school and participate in class.

Three mothers waited in a room on the third floor of the hospital serving as their living quarters for the duration of their stay. For all three, it was the first time they've stepped foot in a surgical facility.

"I wanted to find a place that would help him but I didn't know where to go. I went to the local doctor but they didn't know what to do," said Chim Chaerat.

Another mother, who made the 400km trip from Mondolkiri with her three-year-old daughter, said "We're all scared our children will not get the surgery. I've come from far away and saved lots of money to make the trip."

The surgery list was posted and Cheang was scheduled for surgery November 12. His surgery was successful.

Sophon explained that the family heard about the free surgeries at the beginning of the year and that he wanted to bring his son in March, when Operation Smile last came to Cambodia, but work prevented him from making the trip.

In the future, Operation Smile hopes to build a clinic where it can treat patients year round in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 16 / 23, November 16 - 29, 2007
© Michael Hayes, 2007. All rights revert to authors and artists on publication.
For permission to publish any part of this publication, contact Michael Hayes, Editor-in-Chief - Any comments on the website to Webmaster