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Charitable Organizations Providing Free or Low-Cost Reconstructive Surgery


Updated May 29, 2009

As your guide to plastic surgery, I occasionally get emails from readers asking how and where they can get free plastic surgery. Some have a genuine need for reconstructive surgery, while others are hoping to go on a reality show where their surgery is paid for by the network. This resource list is geared toward the former, and not the latter. There are in fact several charitable organizations who will perform free (or very low cost) plastic surgery on those in need.

1. Putting Smiles on the Faces of Children Born With Cleft Lip / Cleft Palate

Cleft lip/cleft palate occurs in about 1 out of every 1,000 children born in developed countries, and occurs even more frequently in impoverished areas. This condition not only affects appearance, but also makes breathing and eating difficult, if not impossible, and can cause problems with speech development. These organizations travel the world giving of themselves to help children suffering with this defect.

Operation Smile
6435 Tidewater Drive
Norfolk, VA 23509 USA
1-888-OPSMILE (888-677-6453)

The Smile Train
41 Madison Ave., 28th Floor
New York, NY 10010

2. Helping Disfigured Victims of Domestic Violence

I believe it would be safe to assume that all victims of domestic violence suffer from painful memories of their abuse. Imagine how much greater that pain would be when every glance in a mirror leaves the victim with evidence of the abuse staring her in the face. Thankfully, there is help for those disfigured by domestic violence.

The National Domestic Violence Project Hotline

The Royia Grizzell Foundation for Victims of Violence
9002 N. Meridian St., Suite 205
Indianapolis, IN 46260

3. Facing the Future by Erasing The Past - Removing Gang Tattoos

While there are no national or international organizations providing this service, there are several locally-operated programs in various parts of the U.S. which offer free or low-cost laser tattoo removal to former gang members with gang-related tattoos.

Often, participation in counseling, group therapy, or community service is required to receive the benefits of the programs, which are more widely available in areas with large gang memberships. Here are two in California:

Clean Slate Tattoo Removal
562-770-0266 or 323-937-1344 ext. 215
Clean Slate On the Web

California Tattoo Removal Clinic (Modesto, CA)
The Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation
8 Commodore Drive
Emeryville, CA 94608

4. Hope for Victims of Disfiguring Wartime Injuries

Doctors Without Borders is known for delivering humanitarian aid throughout the world by addressing all manner of healthcare needs in developing nations. Many people, however, don't think about the fact that delivering medical care in war-torn countries also means performing reconstructive surgery on victims of wartime violence.

Doctors Without Borders
333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001-5004

5. Help for Victims of Trauma, Cancer, War, Domestic Violence and Birth Defects

These internationally active organizations are made up of many doctors, nurses, and others who donate their time and talents to help those suffering with disfigurement as a result of birth defects, cancer excisions, accidental trauma, burns, acts of war and domestic violence.

Face to Face
c/o Educational & Research Foundation for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
310 S. Henry Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Healing the Children
P.O. Box 9065
Spokane, WA 99209

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