Students Raise Funds for Cleft Palate Surgery

A Northeastern club raised $1,000 at a silent art auction Saturday I the Curry Student Center – enough to pay for four cleft palate surgeries.

The event, titled the Art Pop Shop, was sponsored by the Northeastern branch of Operation Smile, a nonprofit that provides facial surgery for children worldwide who lack access to care.

Organizers cleared out part of the Curry’s first floor seating to display artwork and set up a stage for the band that performed during the auction.

A large black drape separated the auction-goers from the bustle of Crry. Guests were asked to donate $5 at the entrance to help Operation Smile achieve their goal of $240, which is enough for pay for one surgery according to Brittney Ifemembi, the president of Operation Smile.

Cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s lip or palate does not fully join during pregnancy, leaving a gap between the two sides of the face. This disorder occurs in around 7,000 children in the U.S. annually according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children in the U.S., cleft palate is often repaired with surgery shortly after birth, but it often goes untreated in developing countries.

Ifemembi, a 4th year Econ major at NU, said she had been planning the event since May this year. To get the art for the auction, Ifemembi went to an open art studio in Boston and told the artists there about the event and the Operation Smile cause.

One of the artists who attended the event spoke about the importance of getting cleft palate treated. “You can’t have any confidence if you can’t look someone in the eye and smile” said Amanda Smith who donated artwork for the auction. Of the 15 artists with work in the auction, about half were Northeastern students and half were local professional artists.

The largest piece at the auction was a mirror with several white, plaster arms reaching out of the glass towards the viewer. Many pieces were smaller, colorful, oil-based paintings with swirling patterns and thick heavy lines. Professional photographs of children with cleft lips also featured heavily, but were not for sale.

Half way through the auction, BLK WTR (pronounced Black Water), a musical student dup from Berklee College of Music performed their set. The R&B sound of Jameel Zion and Brian Phillips caused attendees to pause and watch the psychedelic black and white graphics that were projected onto a large screen behind the performers.

Those attending the auction were treated to ice cream, candy, and baked treats donated by local businesses as they browsed the art and mingled.

Around 30 people attended. “There are a lot of people who are willing to donate,” said Carissa willis, who attended the event. The art was auctioned for a total of $850.

“People get it fixed here in America,” said Willis about cleft deformities. “They have access.”

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