Londrina, Brazil—Brazilian rally racing vet Ary Osvaldo Cortiano has teamed up with Smile Train Brazil to form Projeto Superação or Project Overcome, in English.
Project Overcome aims to create awareness of the free treatment provided by Smile Train for children born with cleft lip and palate, using rally racing competitions.
Ary who serves as a co-driver to brothers, Leo and Fred Zettel, did not start this project by chance. Born with a cleft lip and palate, Ary has faced many obstacles. Due to the delay of his treatment and the lack of advancement in cleft surgery at the time of his operations, Ary’s childhood was very tough.
“Throughout my life I have suffered great prejudice, which has made an impact on me. For example, I could not look at or touch a pregnant woman because it was believed that this child could born with my problem,” says Ary.
“It was a difficult childhood because nobody wanted to play with me thinking I did not belong to this world.”
As a co-driver for Leo and Fred, Ary is essentially their coach, using an in-helmet intercom system, during the races, which cross a broad range of terrain and distance. This enables the driver to complete each stage as quickly as possible. The brothers will race in cars branded with the Smile Train logo.
Fond of cars from a young age, Ary took a course in auto mechanics and was hired by Fiat to be a test pilot shortly after. From there, Ary has competed in many racing circuits. Besides his role as the Zettel’s co-driver and coach, he currently provides driving lessons and pilot training for professional racing teams.
Even though he has speech problems that have left his voice nasally due to lack of intensive speech therapy, Ary’s classes in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina are extremely popular and in high demand.
It is expected that Project Overcome will enable more people suffering with unrepaired clefts to seek free cleft treatment so that fewer children have to face the same obstacles as Ary.