Alliance Highlights 2023


As we approach our 20TH YEAR IN OPERATION we are proud to announce that we also just completed our 100TH SURGICAL MISSION!

One hundred incredible teams of selfless volunteers have donated their time and talents, and traveled far and wide to provide free, life-changing surgeries to children with cleft lips and palates. Thousands of donors and supporters like you have made these missions possible.

It takes a village and – we’re not biased, of course – but Alliance for Smiles has the best!

This year took us back to familiar, trusted partners and to brand new sites across the Americas, Africa, and Asia, where we not only provided surgeries, but offered virtual and in-person and training, and provided the equipment and support our partners need to offer quality healthcare locally.

With your support, we are changing lives & smiles, and improving access to healthcare around the world!


Executive Director Jessica Hansen

FOR THE FIRST MISSION OF 2023 we visited some of our favorite partners: Hospital Hilario Galindo and the Rotary Club of Retalhuleu in Guatemala.

On this trip we treated patients such as Luis, who had been turned down for surgery several years earlier due to a health condition. He and his family waited five long years for surgery, and were overjoyed to finally receive this life-changing operation.

We also reunited with returning patients like sweet Mayra, who initially had her lip repaired by Dr. Karl Wustrack in 2019. Now she is four years old, and had her palate repaired by the same surgeon!

We also met older patients like Ingrid, who at 37 shared how living with a cleft lip her entire life kept her from pursuing an education and starting a family. She now has a chance to pursue all that she feels she missed before.

For Executive Director Jessica Hansen, connecting with these patients was a powerful reminder of the transformative impact of this work, allowing people to live free from the physical, social, and emotional challenges having of a cleft.


Dr. Ryan Brown

OUR FIRST NEW SITE of 2023 was Hawassa, Ethiopia, where we were connected with the local hospital and Rotarians through Dr. Susan Taylor, who is an AfS board member and 2023 Volunteer of the Year award winner!

Families embarked on arduous journeys spanning hundreds of kilometers, relying on a combination of busses and lengthy treks on foot to reach the hospital. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a dedicated team that delivered transformative surgeries. Dr. Ryan Brown, a standout volunteer, not only brought comfort and joy to families but also trained local surgical and nursing resident. This training ensures that the legacy of AfS extends beyond the immediate needs, fostering enhanced access to high-quality local healthcare services.

For children like five-year-old Wubet, a visit from AfS is a life-changing opportunity. Her father revealed that many children in their village have clefts, but the cost of surgery, which amounts to 45,000 birr (over $800), is far beyond their reach—exceeding a year’s earnings for a typical farmer. Fortunately, with generous donor support, AfS can cover the cost of transportation and surgery, granting these children the chance to leave as happy, healthy individuals with promising futures.

The next mission to this location is already in the works.

Wubet Before and After Surgery


OUR SECOND NEW SITE of 2023 was cultivated by AfS Board member, volunteer, and 2023 Children’s Champion award winner, Tina Fischlin. This mission took the team to Can Tho, in the beautiful Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

As with all AfS missions, this one was not just about providing surgeries, but also about building the skills and expertise of the local team, who were eager and willing to learn, following the AfS surgeons and nurses from the OR to the recovery room and onto the ward to see how everything is done.

Our amazing partners in the Rotary Club of Saigon ensured a smooth and successful mission, and even the young Rotaract Club in Saigon was onhand to see the impact these surgeries have. They were so inspired that they are now assisting with fundraising for more surgeries when AfS returns in 2024, and we are already eagerly planning our return trip!


Our 2023 Gala fell on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, so big hats and ascots were the style of the day. Hosted at the Hotel Nikko and catered by an international award winning chef, this event was as fun and elegant as it was successful!

There were incredible performances by talented musicians, fabulous auction and raffle prizes, and deeply inspiring speakers. However, the highlight was recognizing and celebrating a few individuals who’ve gone above and beyond in their work with AfS and for the children it serves. Here are this year’s award winners:

  • ~ DR. SUSAN TAYLOR, Volunteer of the Year
  • ~ TINA FISCHLIN, Children’s Champion
  • ~ BARBARA FISHER, Lifetime Achievement

These are just a few of the incredible volunteers, donors, and supporters that make our life-changing work possible, and we thank every single one of you. Thanks to everyone who came to this event, we surpassed our gala’s fundraising goal, which makes more transformative surgeries possible.

We hope to see you at our next gala on Saturday, May 4, 2024 at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, CA. This will be a big part of our celebration of 20 years changing lives – you don’t want to miss it!