A Cab Ride Changes a Life

Sonakshi Before and After

Patan, India—Sonakshi Arvind Kamble is a one-year-old girl from India who was born with a cleft lip. When Sonakshi was born her father, Arvind, was terrified. He said, “I was scared and had never seen this deformity so I was reluctant to hold the child.”

The neighbors told him Sonakshi would never be normal.

While Sonakshi’s parents took her to a local hospital for help. For six months Arvind and his daughter would make the trip to the hospital, but they were never told that cleft was treatable. On one of their trips to the hospital, the taxi driver who was taking them knew of Smile Train and told him that his daughter’s smile could be fixed. But Sonashi’s father, a driver himself, only earns 9,000 Rupees per month, about $150. He was nervous that he would not be able to afford the treatment. After an hour-long journey to Smile Train partner Godrej Memorial Hospital, Sonakshi and her family arrived at the hospital to good news—Smile Train could cover the costs of her surgery for free.

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Now Sonakshi, her father, and the entire family are very happy. Her father reports that their neighbors have been treating them much better now that Sonakshi’s cleft has been repaired. Besides commenting on how beautiful is daughter is, Arvind noted that he wants her to become a doctor so she can provide for herself and help others.

Twin Sisters Unable to Part, Even in the Operating Room

Twin sisters Chit and Chun before and after surgery with the surgeons who provided their cleft repairs, including Dr. Jaideep Singh Chauhan.

Twin Chit and Chun before and after surgery with the surgeons who provided their cleft repairs.

Myitkyina, MyanmarSmile Train partner surgeon, Dr. Jaideep Singh Chauhan, from CHL Hospital in Indore, India, shares the story of twins, both born with clefts, during his trip to Myanmar last month. Dr. Jaideep was in the country visiting local surgeons in Kachin, an isolated area of Myanmar, to help train, empower, and foster sustainable cleft care in the region.

With the help of the Embassy of India in Myanmar and the Health Ministry of Myanmar a team of three Indian Smile Train surgeons, including myself, worked side-by-side local medical professionals at Myitkyina General Hospital in June. Together we were able to deliver free surgeries to 84 patients of Kachin State.

Ten-month-old twin sisters Chit and Chun remain the most memorable part of my trip. Born to Ko Dwal Lar (father) and Ma Win Ittay (mother) in Shwegu village of Bhamo district in August 2013, both Chit and Chun shared the same facial defect— a cleft lip. Their parents could not get the condition corrected due to lack of awareness, information, and finances, but they discovered Smile Train through a local social worker. They then rushed to Myitkyina General Hospital where they were admitted, examined, and treated without any further delay. On June 20, 2014 both Chit and Chun received their cleft lip operations at the same time in adjacent operation theaters by myself and Dr. Pritham Shetty.

After a procedure that took about 45 minutes, both girls emerged with a corrected smile that will save them from a lifetime of rejection. Sometimes 45 minutes is all that take to change a life and in this case two lives.

They shared a womb, shared cleft deformity, shared the rejection and ridicule, until they found Smile Train. Then they shared the same moment of corrective surgery and now they share laughter and giggles.

A Long Awaited Smile

Blog post 7.10.2014

Multan, Pakistan—Imagine providing for a family of three living on under seven dollars a day. Unfortunately, this is reality for young Muhammad Zaeem and his family. Muhammad is an only child living with his mother and father in a ‘kachi abadi’ in Pakistan. A ‘kachi abadi’ is an urban settlement in which impoverished people come together to create a makeshift community in order to support each other. Many of the people in these communities cannot read and do not have an adequate supply of resources.

Where Muhammad lives, superstition prevails over science. It is believed that children with a cleft lip are the result of carelessness on the mother’s behalf who, during pregnancy, cut something with a sharp edged knife during an eclipse. While a solution to Muhammad’s cleft was uncertain, his father became hopeful when he saw a Smile Train advertisement on the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital’s billboard.

Muhammad’s parents brought him to see Dr. Amir Hanif at the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital in September 2013. On his first visit Muhammad’s weight and hemoglobin levels were too low to undergo surgery. Dr. Hanif decided to wait four months so Muhammad could become stronger and properly nourished. Muhammad and his parents returned to the hospital in February 2014 and left three days later with Muhammad’s new smile.

The team from the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital visited Muhammad and his family two months later to find great news. Muhammad was living a normal, happy life and was accepted within his community. The family was cheerful and looking forward to the future.

Thankyou Smile Train

When Baba Smiles His Parents’ Hearts Lift With Joy

Baba TBT story

Mumbai, India—The Argaonkar family was shocked and depressed when they discovered their child would be born with a cleft lip for they knew they could not afford the operation. However, the father remembered reading about Pinki Sonkar, a Smile Train patient who is the subject of Smile Train’s Oscar®–winning documentary Smile Pinki. He had read about her trip to London in July 2013 when Pinki was chosen to perform the coin toss at the Gentlemen’s Singles final, Wimbledon .

Their son Baba, one year after the free surgery provided by Smile Train, is now a beautiful boy who brings happiness to his parents’ hearts. Dr Bharti Khandekar and the Godrej Memorial Hospital are to thank for their hard work and dedication. Thanks to the partnership between the Indiabulls Foundation and Smile Train, another young life has been restored with hope.

Argaonkar Family Pic

Twin Brothers Receive Life Changing Operations on the Same Day

Twins after

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Talisay City, Philippines: Twin brothers Aerald and Aervy are now all smiles thanks to their surgery at the Young Life Foundation.

Nine-month-old twin brothers Aerald & Aervy Nierves are from Talisay City in the Philippines. Both Aerald and Aervy were born with cleft lips but their parents are unemployed and cannot afford
the surgery
. IF The boys were brought to the Young Life Foundation in hopes of receiving cleft lip operations for free. Luckily, Smile Train was there to help and the boys received operations soon after their visit.

A Change of Heart

Six-year-old Harouna from Niger, before and after his Smile Train surgery that not only transformed his life, but his father's as well.

Six-year-old Harouna from Niger, before and after his Smile Train surgery that not only transformed his life, but his father’s as well.

Bouza, Niger—Harouna Mahamadou is a beautiful six-year-old boy from Niger who is a patient at Smile Train’s partner hospital, CURE Children’s Hospital of Niger.

When Harouna was born his father, Mahamadou Abdoul-Rahim, was disappointed with both his wife and son as Harouna was the only child out of nine to be born with a cleft. Mahamadou was so upset he left his family for another woman. Unfortunately soon after, Mahamadou was in a terrible accident and was bedridden for eight months. During this time his new wife left him claiming she would rather be a divorcee than a widow.

Feeling rejected, Mahamadou Abdoul-Rahim began to realize how his son must have felt for being ostracized for something he could not control. After apologizing to his wife and son, Mahamadou Abdoul-Rahim slowly regained his strength and soon after, learned about Smile Train. Harouna soon underwent a cleft operation with the love and support from his entire family.

The Mahamadou family has undergone a transformation in spirit. Now grateful for his family and son, Mahamadou Abdoul-Rahim told Smile Train, “What you are doing is the work of God, because you are taking care of people who really need help and who have no one else to help them.”

Lau Jean’s Story

Lau Jean, 54, before and after his Smile Train surgery.

Lau Jean, 54, before and after his Smile Train surgery.

Tokombéré, Cameroon—Rejected, insulted, despised, alienated, and thought of as a witch. Such was the fate of Mr. Lau Jean. Smile Train met Jean, a 54-year-old man, in Cameroon at Hôpital Privé Catholique de Tokombere.

Jean was born in a remote village in northern Cameroon called Glonhobe and from infancy his life was marked by rejection. He received no schooling and as a child lived in a world of ignorance, poverty, and fear of death. Because of his cleft, he was not allowed to partake in traditional ceremonies or village and family gatherings. Jean was unable to even sit with friends and family during meals.

As was the custom in his region, Jean’s marriage was arranged for him when he was a young adult. Jean’s brother represented him during the marriage ceremony though as he was unable to participate in this custom—his own wedding—because of his cleft. When Jean’s wife met him for the first time after the wedding, she was shocked, frightened, confused, and wanted out immediately. Her family could not allow her leave the marriage as the traditional rites had already been finalized. The couple went on to have five children.

Trying to provide for his family was impossible as no one wanted to do business with Jean. He barely had enough money to live, let alone receive surgery to repair his cleft. He was also very afraid he would die during the procedure. Luckily a social worker sponsored by Smile Train from Hôpital Privé Catholique de Tokombere arrived at his village and showed him pictures of patients whose clefts were repaired. They told him stories of how each patient, from infants to adults like himself, now had better lives. He then decided to go ahead with the surgery. After a short, but life-transforming surgical procedure, Jean’s whole world changed.

News about Jean’s new life had gotten to his village even before his arrival three days later. When Jean arrived home a celebration in his honor was waiting for him. His wife was once again confused, only this time, she was staring at her husband with eyes of joy and new love. For the children, it was the first time they saw their papa be like any other father in their community.

Jean is now accepted in all the ranks of his society as a man of honor, having now been given all the traditional rights and privileges. Although adjusting to his new life has at times been difficult, like trying to use his identification papers as his photo has completely changed, he is beyond happy and proud. He is very grateful to Smile Train and its worldwide partners for giving him, and so many other patients like him, a new life. Jean has now become a social recruiter visiting nearby villages as an ambassador for Smile Train educating communities about cleft and finding others in need of surgery.