Adventurers honoured for helping Operation Smile

From left are Andrew Stuart, David Grier, Bob Bolus, Dan Meyer and Richard Kohler.

Five adventurers, who together have helped to raise more than R1 million for Operation Smile South Africa, were honoured during a cocktail party at a V&A Waterfront last week.

Richard Kohler, 53, from Milnerton; Dan Meyer, 40, from the City Bowl; Bob Bolus, 66, from Claremont; David Grier, 63, from Constantia; and Andrew Stuart, 56, from Somerset West, raised the money through givengain and the Operation Smile fund-raising page, according to Operation Smile’s executive director, Sarah Scarth.

The global non-profit, which has an office in Mowbray, helps needy patients with cleft lips and palates get free corrective surgery.

“We have all our wonderful doctors, speech therapists and the whole team to provide this incredible surgery that will absolutely transform the lives of our patients,” said Ms Scarth.

Mr Bolus, who walked 500km from Mossel Bay to Pringle Bay in October and November last year to raise money for Operation Smile, said he could not imagine what it must be like not to be able to smile.

“If I can help make difference in putting the smile back on a few children, it would make a difference to me,” he said.

Mr Meyer cycled 3000km, alone, from coast to coast in America, in June and July last year. “When you push your body to a breaking point where you feel you can no longer go on, when you have the mental capacity to push on, you can do anything and that is what makes the challenge greater,” he said.

Mr Kohler completed a 63-day, 7000km kayak journey from Cape Town to Salvador, in Brazil, from December last year to February this year. “About 90% of the challenge is mental, and when you are all alone for so long, you get to learn about yourself and in doing that, think about how you can help others, like helping Operation Smile,” he said.

Running partners Mr Grier and Mr Stuart ran 1500km along the coastlines of Portugal and Madeira in June and July. “It is the sharing and growth that we go through that can enhance the people around us. I reached out to Operation Smile to make a difference, and, in turn, this organisation has changed us,” said Mr Grier. Mr Stuart said: “It was important to see that the organisation makes a difference and that is special.”

Khanyisa Mambula’s 19-month-old daughter Ayamnkele, had reconstructive surgery to her cleft lip at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, in Mthatha, in October last year. She said her daughter could now smile and sing after the procedure. “I am grateful for Operation Smile,” she said.

Tshepo Manetja, 25, of Polokwane, had an operation to correct his cleft lip at the Witbank Provincial Hospital in Mpumalanga in 2019. “When I grew up, I felt so alone, many of the children did not want to play with me,” he said. After matriculating, he had sent messages to Operation Smile. “They got back to me immediately, and they first scheduled an appointment with me, then scheduled an operation,” he said. “I am very proud and grateful to them.”

Visit or call 021 447 3608 for more information about the organisation.

With help from Operation Smile, Tshepo Manetja, 25, of Polokwane, had an operation to correct his cleft lip in 2019.