Smile Train Celebrates Partnership with Lifebox

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Smile Train thanks Lifebox for helping save lives and for being an invaluable partner over the past 4 years.

Since 2012, Lifebox has provided thousands of lifesaving pulse oximeters to Smile Train partners worldwide. The pulse oximeters measure the level of oxygen in a patient’s blood while under anesthesia during cleft surgery, sounding an early warning alarm if a patient is becoming short of oxygen and providing an opportunity to prevent brain damage and heart failure. Simply put, the pulse oximeters help save lives.

“This is a marvelous device that we use with all our surgical patients in the OR and post-operatively. It permits us to intervene to correct a problem much earlier than we were able to when relying on clinical signs. It is accurate, reliable, sturdy, simple to use by any level of healthcare worker and easy to teach. We send kudos to all who have contributed to this unique and worthwhile project. Many, many thanks for helping us and for the precious lives your efforts have saved.” Smile Train partner, Hôpital de District de Kolofata (Kolofata District Hospital), Cameroon

Chris Szydlo Power Of A Smile

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Former cleft patient and Smile Train company matching gift donor, Chris Szydlo, shares the reasons why he donates to Smile Train through his employer’s matching gift program.

What first inspired you to support Smile Train?
I was able to have three surgeries to correct my cleft lip because of my family’s healthcare plan—I know that others are not that fortunate. A new smile can restore the confidence of children ostracized for something completely out of their control. By giving them the ability to regain their pride and confidence, I know that we are making an immeasurable impact on them as individuals, their families and communities.

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with a cleft what would it be?
Stay positive and be proud of who you are. What makes you different can also be your greatest strength.

Why should others be inspired to donate to Smile Train?
Who doesn’t want to help someone smile? We spend money on presents, food, comedy shows, and an endless amount of other short-term means to make us smile. An investment toward a cleft surgery, through Smile Train, creates a smile for life!

What makes you smile?
Being able to make a positive impact in other people’s lives.

If you’re interested in your company matching your gift to Smile Train please visit smiletrain.org/donate/matching-gift.html

Jessica’s Unforgettable Journey to Indonesia

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I recently participated in my first Journey of Smiles trip. These trips provide Smile Train supporters the opportunity to visit partner hospitals and patients in the field. For me, there is nothing more impactful and rewarding than seeing first-hand how Smile Train gives children second chances at life, and I was thrilled by the opportunity to visit our partners in Indonesia.

Our first visit was to partner hospital Yaya Senyum Bali where we viewed a cleft lip surgery and visited their Smile House. The Smile House was created to offer patients and their families a place to stay and receive pre- and post-operative assistance. Many of our patients travel very long distances to reach our partner hospitals, especially in Indonesia, an archipelago of 18,307 islands! Some of our patients have never seen electricity or running water before they arrive in Bali.

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The staff at the Smile House provides more than just room and board for patients and their families, they also connect them with a larger network of people who are going through the same experience. During their time at the Smile House everyone is one big family.

Some people are so moved by their experience at the Smile House that they are inspired to give back. One former patient was so thankful for all that the Smile House provided for her, she decided to stay on and work as the Smile House’s cook.  She’s able to provide not just meals for those staying there, but support from someone who knows exactly what they are going through.

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From Bali, we flew to Bandung to meet the staff and patients at our partner hospital YPPCBL. Our entire group was humbled by the compassion with which the staff approached their efforts of helping children with clefts. They are constantly pushing themselves to try and find ways to do even more to help their patients. Their whole team, surgeons, speech therapists, social workers and administrators, are so wonderful that it’s not hard to imagine why the people at the cleft center have become like a second family for their patients.

After our time at YPPCBL, we visited former Smile Train patient Elka and her family, who live in a two room apartment on the outskirts of Bandung.

Elka received free cleft palate surgery at YPPCBL when she was three years old, two years later than when most babies receive cleft palate surgery. Repairing a cleft palate at that age caused Elka to develop a speech impairment and require years of speech therapy, provided for free at YPPCBL.

YPPCBL’s speech therapist, who works with Elka, accompanied us on the visit. It was so heartwarming to see the relationship that the speech therapist had with Elka. It felt like she was part of Elka’s family.

I am beyond grateful to be given the opportunity to travel to Indonesia, meet our local team there and share this experience with our supporters. Words cannot describe how inspiring it was to see our programs through their eyes. Without the support of our donors, none of this would be possible.

To find out how you can join us on a Journey of Smiles visit: smiletrain.org/journeyofsmiles

Ewa Rumprecht Power Of A Smile

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Ewa Rumprecht, Manager, Technology Projects (pictured above with medical partners in Myanmar) talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I was impressed by Smile Train’s focus on a single solvable problem. It was also important for me that Smile Train was building, supporting and strengthening our partner’s medical capacity rather than providing international aid as outsiders, without local knowledge.

How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power Of A Smile differently?
I see the Power Of A Smile as an immense number of children in need that are being helped by the generosity of the donors, dedication of the local doctors, medical staff, social workers and Smile Train’s efforts. The image of one million smiling faces cannot leave one unmoved.

What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
The difference that Smile Train makes in peoples’ lives. I am touched and motivated, every time I see an image of a mother leaning over her child after a cleft surgery with renewed hopes. I read accounts of a doctor who adopted a cleft patient he found chained to a tree, families walking for days for their new smiles, children learning to sing after their surgeries. A new smile makes great things happen.

What do you think the Power Of A Smile is?
A smile opens doors, increases confidence, and provides comfort at just the right moment.

A Fresh Start for Saraswati

Saraswati 300Early one morning, residents sleeping at a hostel in Koppal, India awoke to the sound of a crying baby. When the crying persisted, a group was able to track down the source of the commotion — an abandoned two-day-old baby with a cleft lip and palate.

They knew that they needed to help the severely malnourished child, so they started calling local government offices and charities. After several failed attempts, the dying child was rushed to local Smile Train partner SDM Medical College. There the baby’s caretakers received counseling on special feeding techniques for children with clefts as well as medicine to keep the baby healthy. It was that day Saraswati was named after a Hindu goddess with healing and purifying powers.

After months of hard work, Saraswati became healthy enough for her Smile Train sponsored free cleft lip surgery. Then, several months later, she received her cleft palate surgery.

Recently, a couple looking to adopt a child met Saraswati. They fell in love with her and said that she had the perfect smile. The baby who was previously abandoned and left for dead now has a fresh start and a second chance at life with her new parents.

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Nina Bolhuis Power Of A Smile

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Smile Train supporter and former cleft patient, Nina Bolhuis, talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What inspired you to support Smile Train?
I think that more people need to be aware that cleft lip and palate is often a very serious health issue—especially for children with clefts who can’t afford a surgery. I recently found Smile Train on Instagram and I was amazed by all of the smiling children Smile Train has reached.

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?
Be self-confident. Once I learned to embrace myself all of the shame went away. You may not look like everyone else but you’re beautiful and strong. Embrace your imperfections, they will always be there, and that makes you, you.

What did being born with a cleft teach you about life?
It taught me to stand up for myself. When I was younger, I ignored bullying by pretending that it didn’t bother me but now I’ve learned to confront bullying by openly talking about my cleft. Once people know your story, they will be less likely to try to hurt you.

Nina 300.jpgWhat makes you smile?
I always say, “Don’t search for happiness, find it.” I think that some people overthink happiness and often miss all of the happy things all around. A child helped by Smile Train makes me happy. My family and friends make me happy. Music and dancing make me happy.


Struggling to Survive: Samwel’s Story

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In early 2015, Agnetta Muhawenimana gave birth to her first son, Samwel, who was unexpectedly born with a cleft lip. The extended family, many of whom worked with Agnetta at their small family farm, gathered at her home in anticipation of Samwel’s arrival. But instead they all sat in silence and feared for Samwel’s life.

Samwel began to lose weight because his cleft lip hindered his ability to breastfeed. Food was already scarce for the large family, and Agnetta did not know if her frail son would survive. After several weeks of trial and error, Agnetta discovered that she could feed Samwel breastmilk with a spoon, and he began to put on weight.

When Samwel was six-months-old, Agnetta heard a local radio host describing free Smile Train sponsored cleft surgery in Rwamagana. Agnetta knew this was her chance to provide Samwel a second chance at life, but she could not afford the transportation costs, as Smile Train’s partner hospital was 100 miles away. She decided to go door-to-door, asking to borrow money from neighbors until she had enough to cover the bus ride there. She would worry about how she was going to get home later.

In August of 2015, Samwel arrived at our Smile Train partner hospital in Rwamagana, and since he was at a healthy weight he was approved for free cleft lip surgery. When he came out of surgery, Agnetta said, “Bless all of the people who have given my son a new tomorrow.” After the local medical team was told about the family’s financial problems, Agnetta even received a small grant to cover the cost of transportation back home.

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