Grainne McElhone, a former cleft patient, donated her 30th birthday to Smile Train. We recently had the chance to ask her some questions.
How did you become involved with Smile Train and why?
A few years ago I spoke to a doctor who happened to be a Smile Train supporter. Up until that point, I didn’t know much about Smile Train so I did some research and decided I wanted to help This was when I came up with the idea of a sponsored birthday… my 30th was coming up and I thought it would be the best way to celebrate it!
What motivates you to keep supporting Smile Train?
Following my research into the charity, it made me appreciate how lucky and fortunate I was to receive the care that I did. It made me realise that many children and adults in developing countries may not get the opportunity to have their clefts repaired without the support of Smile Train.
How did you support Smile Train?
To celebrate my 30th birthday this year I held a coffee morning in lieu of gifts from friends and family. I asked them for a donation to Smile Train, in which I was able to raise over £1,900, an amount I was overwhelmed with and could not have reached without a lot of help from my family and friends.
What makes you Smile?
Friends and family always make me smile and laugh, going for cocktails, new clothes and random acts of kindness. Receiving and giving always wins a smile!
Why do you give to Smile Train?
To give someone else the smile that I was lucky enough to get.
Monesta is six months old and she was born with cleft lip. She traveled with her mother, Pili, a distance of 200km by bus to arrive at local Smile Train partner hospital CCBRT.
Monesta is the 5th child of Pili, a 29 years old Tanzanian woman from a farming family. When Pili gave birth to Monesta at their home, she was surprised when she saw her newborn’s cleft lip. Pili had seen other children living with unrepaired clefts so she was unaware that surgery to repair her daughter’s cleft was even an option.
When Monesta was four months old, Pili took her to a local dispensary and the medic there told her about Smile Train and how her daughter’s cleft could be repaired at no cost to her.
Pili and Monesta arrived at CCBRT on March 14. They spent five days in the hospital and Smile Train’s local partner surgeon, Dr Wayi, performed Monesta’s cleft repair surgery. Pili was so happy with the results and there was very little swelling. You can now see just how much Monesta loves her new smile as she beams brightly in every photo taken of her since her surgery.
In his own words Smile Train supporter, Blake Haugland explains what motivates him to fundraise for Smile Train.
No matter how you look at it, an athlete competing in a triathlon is competing for their own personal satisfaction and that’s a great thing, but race after race I started feeling like I wanted to cross the finish line for more than myself or a new “PR”. That’s when I found Smile Train. Knowing that I could use my triathlon races and connections in NASCAR to help change a child’s life was the perfect way for my wife Melissa and myself to do this.
Through my coaching business LIMITLESS MULTISPORT TRAINING I have been able to donate a percentage of my earnings toward our Smile Train goal which is awesome because it’s a way my athletes can help raise money and train! Another amazing tool I have been able to use has been offering lug nuts from our pit stops to race fans for a donation. We have thousands of fans who tour pit road prior to the race start and they are able to come by our pit stall and hang out and grab an authentic lug nut from the prior week’s race. In the past we used to literally leave these used lug nuts on the ground or they would get thrown in the trash but now they are being turned into smiles!
I know sometimes it can be financially difficult for people to donate money but if you can incorporate it into a purchase they are already planning on making you can hit a home run every time! I want to thank Michael Waltrip Racing and NASCAR for the opportunity to make these children have a better quality of life. See you at the track!
This was a letter written by a patient’s mother thanking everyone involved in her child’s cleft surgery.
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“Myself Dr. Vaijayanti was a mother of cleft palate baby. But now she is no more a cleft palate baby, all thanks to Dr. Nitin Mokal and his team, the Smile Train foundation and the kind aid of your institution. Dr. Nitin Mokal is such a simple and humble human being, yet so efficient, dedicated and loving towards his patients. I really appreciate the kind work is has been doing to eradicate cleft palate, because I cannot put it in words how it feels to be a mother of cleft lip or cleft palate baby, but his magic hands does the miracle. May God bless him.
I really want to thank all the staff who extended such wonderful care to my baby. My 3 day stay with my baby going through the surgery became easier because of all the help received from the staff nurses and Maushi’s. Specially Sister Rihana for her kind and loving gratitude and special attention towards my baby. The Doctor RMO’s are very kind and loving.
I really cannot thank enough, just want to say God bless you all. Big thank you and lots of love from my baby Niyati”
– Dr. Vaijayanti
Mamta Carrol, Regional Director of South Asia Programs talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work with / support Smile Train?
The transformational nature of what Smile Train does, the scale, intensity and range of its work and the enduring impact it makes in individual lives, the lives of entire families and the attitudes of communities, is unmatched. In the developing world societal prejudices driven by superstitions and entrenched attitudes prevent children with clefts and their families from leading normal lives. My work at Smile Train allows me to make a very tangible and real impact on ground.
How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power Of A Smile differently?
A smile is instinctive, natural and effortless for almost everyone. Each smile reminds me of the many who have trouble smiling, the magnitude of what we have accomplished and have yet to accomplish. The most fulfilling smile is the smile of our patients after surgery. It radiates the possibilities that our work opens up for these children.
What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
The sheer significance and impact of what Smile Train does makes me feel blessed in contributing – this is a life-changing gift for entire families. It has imbued me with a passion to transform lives. It has gone beyond the definition of a job to become my mission. An article of faith with a higher and more enduring goal in life. Far more enriching than a conventional corporate career and far more satisfying.
Sichuan Province, China – The arrival of a new baby typically brings a lot of happiness to a family, but when little Jiaxin was born with a cleft lip and palate the Yangs knew they wouldn’t be able to afford surgery for their child. To get Jiaxin the help she needed the family moved to Chengdu in hopes that the city would have better medical facilities.
To survive in their new city, Jiaxin’s father worked doing manual labor at a construction site, and her grandmother and grandfather worked long hours every day to make extra money for the family. All of the hard work was worth it when the Yangs found out that Smile Train’s local partner hospital, West China College of Stomatology Sichuan University, would be able to give Jiaxin the help she needed.
Jiaxin, with the help of Smile Train, began her journey to a new smile with free cleft lip surgery. Since her surgery, Jiaxin’s family said they now have a new sense of hope and a more positive attitude in their own lives.
Today, 2-year-old Jiaxin is a lovely and lively girl who loves to laugh and talk.
In March 2015, Jiaxin met Smile Train’s CEO, Susannah Schaefer, along with Shi Bing, Vice President of West China Stomatology Hospital of Sichuan University, and Dr. Shell Xue, Senior Vice President and Regional Director of Smile Train North Asia. Susannah was in China supporting the local nurses at a special training conference. Susannah’s advice to little Jiaxin was to continue to have the confidence to overcome difficulties and to embrace her new life.
Jiaxin’s mother is very grateful to Smile Train for giving Jiaxin the ability to be like the other children, and a second chance at life. She said that Smile Train not only gave them financial help, but also brought hope to them and an opportunity for a brighter future.
Smile Train supporter Peggy Kamphausen recently shared a heartwarming story of how her now late mother, at 94 years old, wanted to get a job to help a special Smile Train patient. Below is the story in Peggy’s own words.
I took care of my parents when they were 94 years old. While my mother’s mind wasn’t always clear, her beautiful heart continued to feel. She saw a magazine ad for Smile Train with pictures of children before their clefts were repaired. She managed to tell me she wanted to get a job so she could afford to help the cleft children. With tears in her eyes, she pointed to the picture of the most severely affected little boy, “Him…I have to help him!” she said.
My beautiful mom and dad have passed away now, but every Christmas I honor her request. In my adult children’s Christmas stockings, I place a note that $250 has been donated in their Grandma and Grandpa’s memory to help a child. It is our special Christmas tradition.
There is peace and warmth in a smile. To me the Power Of A Smile is a universal language that instantly connects one heart to another. God bless everyone at Smile Train for the amazing work that they do. And for helping me to fulfill my mother’s longing to help.