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INTERVIEW: Operation International Co-Founder Medhat Allam On The Non-Profit's Life-Saving Efforts, The September Benefit, And More

Nicole Barylski

"When we started, there was only three guys, three friends going around. Now, we have 14 different teams that are traveling all over the world," Allam told Hamptons.com. (Courtesy Photo)

Operation International, a non-profit medical mission organization based in Southampton, will host its 22nd Annual September Benefit on Saturday, September 28 at Laurel Lake Vineyards in Laurel. The 70s themed affair, which will honor Ana Daniel and the Rotary Club of Riverhead, will feature dinner, live music from That Motown Band, a silent auction, and dancing under the stars.

We caught up with Operation International's Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors Medhat Allam to learn more about the non-profit's global efforts:

What inspired you to co-found Operation International?

MA: I think my main inspiration was my mother. She was always very kind and would always give to the poor, even though she was poor herself. She would find somebody poorer than her, always. So, that was my main inspiration. But, I had no idea where this was going. I just started it as something to give back a little bit and try to be human. It ended up being something very good.

The organization has grown quite a bit since it was first established in 1996. Could you please discuss the non-profit's expansion?

MA: When we started, there was only three guys, three friends going around. Now, we have 14 different teams that are traveling all over the world. We have a team that does only eye surgery or orthopedic surgery or women's health. We have teams outside of the United States. Now, we have a team located in England and we have a team located in Hong Kong. So, we grew quite a bit.

What are some of the places teams have traveled to recently?

MA: A team went to the Ivory Coast. Another team went to Liberia. They actually were invited by the President of Liberia to meet him, to thank them. We had a team in Uganda. In September, a team went to Ghana. That's our newest team, which is located in England. In August, a team went to Kenya, that's our pediatric team. On October 3, our women's health team is going to Uganda, and on November 11, our head and neck team is going to Ecuador.

How many people typically go on a mission?

MA: The team varies based on the kind of specialty, but most of the teams run between 18 and 24 members. All of our teams are lean - the surgeon, the nurses and the physiologist and that's it. Of course, the orphan care portion of a team too.

How many people does the team typically serve while they're there?

MA: Again, it varies about the composition of the team. When the team, for example, provides basic medical screening and treatment in addition to surgery, they end up serving a lot. The pediatric team, for example, in their clinic on their trip last year, they screened or treated 620 patients in one mission.

As for the surgical portions, it depends upon the complexity of the operations being done. But, it averages between 75 and 150 operations being done in one week.

What are some of Operation International's newer initiatives?

MA: So, in the last three years, we added orphan care as part of our work. We, in Uganda, in the Ivory Coast, and in Miramar, we were able to refurbish an orphanage. The last one we did was in the Ivory Coast where we redid the entire orphanage, built an addition to the orphanage because there were like 40 kids sleeping in each room. So we added enough room that there's no more than about 20 kids sleeping in the room. We built bunk beds for everybody, mattresses, we build a chicken coop, we created land with irrigation for planting.

My hope is that we'll be able to duplicate that in every place that we go, where we take an orphanage and make it sustainable that they don't need financial support by providing them with a source of food and form of irrigation system and a piece of land where they can plant, and have chicken and geese for meat, goats for milk. This way they have enough - like the last orphanage we put over 200 egg-laying chickens. So now they are able to sell their eggs and get other material like flour or corn or whatever they need.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

MA: I invite everybody to come to Laurel Lake Vineyards for our end of summer gala.

Tickets to the 22nd Annual September Benefit start at $150 and all donations will support to organization's medical outreach, as well as continued work to better the living conditions in Bolivia and at the Rakai Infant & Elementary School Orphanage in Uganda. The gathering will take place from 6:30 to 11 p.m.

Laurel Lake Vineyards is located at 3165 Main Road in Laurel. For more information, visit www.operationinternational.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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