Earlier this month, PPA Trustee Graham Wilson, whose Visions Photography is located in Littleton, CO, provided the photographic coverage for Operation Smile’s annual International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) in Denver. Over 400 students from 12 countries attended the event, which is held annually at a different university around the world. Its purpose is to help students develop and strengthen leadership skills and character, receive training on how to help those in developing countries, as well as increase their cultural awareness. Thousands of students in more than 600 schools around the world are involved in Operation Smile’s Student Programs, making a difference in children’s lives worldwide and learning the importance of volunteerism. The International Student Leadership Conference for 2011 is scheduled to be held at the University of Beijing.
One of Graham’s responsibilities at the ISLC was to photograph Jessica Simpson, Operation Smile’s International Youth Ambassador, who mingled with students prior to her opening night presentation. Since 2003, Simpson has helped to spread awareness for children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate as well as the work of Operation Smile. In 2006, she visited Capitol Hill to speak on behalf of the organization. She has participated on international medical missions to Kenya and India, where she donned scrubs and witnessed the work of the surgical team in the operating room. Recently, Jessica launched a new initiative called A Beautiful Me in collaboration with Operation Smile, to help inspire self-esteem in young people who can then use their confidence and personal strength to change the world.
According to Graham, Jessica proved to be a good sport, mingling with the students and talking to them about her experiences on the mission in Africa. The conference also included addresses by master motivator Dan Clark, of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame, as well as by Dr. Bill Magee and his wife, Kathy, the founders of Operation Smile. According to Graham, “the stories from the speakers were truly inspirational, and they intensified my resolve to help this incredible organization.” Dr. Magee is shown below as he introduces Jessica Simpson for her opening-night presentation.
“It was a real treat to be involved in such an amazing event, with so many incredible people,” said Graham, who met up with two students who took part in the mission to Vietnam that Graham documented last year. “Those girls are both incredible high school kids, and I had a wonderful time visiting with them,” he said.
Graham caught the image at left of Operation Smile founders Bill and Kathy Magee, whom he met for the first time last year during his coverage of the Vietnam mission, which was one of 16 medical missions conducted simultaneously across Vietnam from November 4 through November 16 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Operation Smile’s presence in that country. Graham is shown with his wife Annemarie and Dr. McGee in the photo below. You can view a video that Graham made of his Vietnam mission by clicking here.