Dr. Esther Njoroge Power Of A Smile

IMG_4364 (2)Dr. Esther Nyambura Njoroge, Regional Director, Smile Train Africa talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I studied medicine so I would be able to work for an organization that transform children’s lives. When I read about Smile Train’s work in Africa I knew that was where I wanted to be. Working with Smile Train helps me change the world, in my own small way.

How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power Of A Smile differently?
We take a lot of life’s gifts for granted.  Meeting and interacting with patients born with cleft lip and/or palate has made me appreciate my ability to smile. A smile is like an invitation to invite someone into your life. Giving cleft patients the power to interact with their community is a gift like no other.

What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
I wake up every day with purpose and go to bed every night satisfied that I have changed a life forever. I love when I see the joy in a mother’s eyes the moment they see their child after surgery—I’m so grateful to Smile Train for allowing me be a part of a miracle.

Frozen by Fear: Sophia’s Story

Mohammed Nisar and his wife never learned how to read when they were growing up in Southeast Pakistan. This made it difficult to find steady work and provide for their growing family. So Mohammed took a job as a rickshaw driver, primarily to pay for his children’s educations. It was very important to them that all of their children would grow up with the ability to read and have the opportunity to be prosperous.

When Mohammed’s wife gave birth to their fifth child Sophia, the family was shocked to see she was born with a cleft lip and palate. The little money they had went toward paying for Sophia’s siblings’ educations, and the price of cleft lip and palate surgeries for Sophia was completely unattainable.

As Sophia grew older, she avoided everyone she encountered. When she left the house, she buried her face in her mother’s dress or walked with her hands covering her face. When she was old enough to attend a local school with her siblings, Mohammed said that Sophia was immobilized with fits of anxiety and she refused to leave her home.

At nine-years-old, Sophia had a fortunate encounter at a local market with a representative from local Smile Train partner CLAFT. Dr. Zubair A. Abbasi recalls, “Sophia suffered from psychosocial problems. She was very nervous when we met and she was constantly covering her cleft lip with her hand.” The doctor invited Sophia and her mother to a local clinic and she was approved for her Smile Train sponsored cleft lip and palate surgeries.

SophiaThe surgeries were successful and Sophia got her beautiful smile back. “Sophia was a totally changed girl when I saw her last. She was smiling, did not cover her face, and had complete confidence,” said Dr. Abbasi. Mohammed recently visited the clinic to thank Smile Train and CLAFT. He said that Sophia can freely leave their home and has decided that she is ready to go to school. Now Mohammed’s dream that all of his children will be able to read and have the opportunity to be prosperous is finally a reality.

22 Years of Fear


When Allo Charles was born with cleft lip, his parents recognized what the condition was, but had never personally seen it before. The children in their village who were previously born with cleft lip or palate were either in hiding or had been killed. Clefts in this village, in rural Chad, are seen by the villagers as a bad omen and are considered a punishment from God for the family’s sins. After Allo was born with a cleft lip, his parents quickly decided that every child is a gift and they would openly raise Allo in their community, without shame.

Almost immediately, there were harsh consequences. Allo’s family wasn’t allowed to attend village meetings, and they were socially ostracized. Allo remembered, “I couldn’t eat or play with others because their parents wouldn’t let their children get close to me. There were several superstitions about my cleft, and they even made me believe some of them. I thought I was cursed.”

When Allo attended primary school, he said that his fellow students and teachers made his life miserable. They said his education was a waste of time and he would never amount to anything. “School for me was hell, but living with an unrepaired cleft made me strong. The more I was insulted, the more I wanted to prove them wrong and make something of my life,” said Allo.

Allo thought that secondary school might be his chance for a better life. The day he left his village for a room in the much larger city of N’Djamena, his new landlord wouldn’t allow Allo to move in. The landlord said that his children were afraid of Allo and he did not want them to catch his disease. Allo decided to move in with his cousin while he figured out what to do next.

Fortunately, during this downtime from school, he saw a Facebook post from Smile Train partner WECCARE  Foundation. He thought the offer of free cleft surgery was too good to be true, but decided to go to WECCARE  after seeing the program was endorsed by the First Lady of Chad. “On that day, for the first time in my life, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. There were dozens of people who looked just like me at the hospital.” Three days later, Allo received his Smile Train sponsored, free cleft surgery.

Allo Now Allo says he wants to repay Smile Train and WECCARE’s  wonderful gift of a new smile by going back to school and becoming an advocate for children with cleft lip and palate living in Chad.

Samantha Johnston Power Of A Smile

Sam HeaderSamantha Johnston, Manager, Corporate Partnerships talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I loved how focused the organization is. I was impressed about Smile Train’s laser-focus of solving a single problem in the most effective way possible. Also, the fact that they leveraged technology to continually improve day-to-day operations was important to me; it allows me to go to work knowing we will accomplish as much as possible every single day.

How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the power a smile differently?
It’s easy to forget that a smile is so much more than a physical feature. To the children Smile Train helps, a smile is a second chance at life. It’s the opportunity to go to school, have friends, and get a job. It’s the opportunity to have dreams that they may never have had without Smile Train.

What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
Knowing we bring happiness to children, families and communities around the world every day keeps me going. Smile Train has achieved some great smilestones in such a short time, but there’s still more work to be done. I want to be sure I do everything in my power to help Smile Train reach as many children as possible.

Flowering Hope for Lavender


When Lena gave birth to her daughter Lavender, the whispers about the infant’s cleft lip spread quickly throughout their tiny village of Masindet, Kenya.  As neighbors lined up to see the baby, Lena was devastated when she overheard someone saying, “Babies like this shouldn’t exist.”

The family struggled to raise the funds for cleft surgery for more than a year. Lena’s stress and disappointment boiled over during a family argument – she decided to leave the family and run away. Now alone with Lavender, her father knew that he needed help so he asked his mother Irene for support.

Irene fortunately knew that surgery could correct Lavender’s unrepaired cleft lip because her cousin also had a cleft. She told her son that Lavender’s condition was nothing to be embarrassed of. “Stop questioning why Lavender was born with a cleft lip, it is just something that happens, and it can be repaired,” she said.

After asking around, Irene found Smile Train partner, IcFEM Dreamland Mission Hospital and made an appointment for Lavender. On surgery day, the route to the hospital was only accessible by walking so she carried Lavender more than 16 miles through muddy and hilly terrain.

After the surgery, Irene was very happy with the results. “The surgery has made the future of my granddaughter bright,” she says. Irene left the hospital, promising to testify about the miracles being performed at IcFEM Dreamland Mission Hospital. Irene said her next task was to track down Lena in hopes of Lavender’s parents reconciling and raising their child together.

Lavander post op female Kimilili Kenya copy

The True Power of a Smile: Tomos Lavery’s Story

Sing2Smile 1Tomos Lavery and his sister Ffion started Sing 2 Smile, an organisation raising money for Smile Train by showcasing young and exciting musicians across the UK.

How did you become involved with Smile Train and why?
My sister Ffion and I wanted to put our passion for singing to good use. As a dentist, I learned about cleft lips and palates whilst studying for my degree and I know that for a small amount of money it was possible to give hope and confidence to these children. That is when we started the idea for Sing 2 Smile concerts.

What motivates you to keep supporting Smile Train?
Being able to put on concerts with friends and fellow musicians has been extremely enjoyable. We’ve had fantastic support from our local communities, family, and friends. One highlight was meeting other fundraisers and supporters of Smile Train at the House of Lords. It’s wonderful to know that together we are making a difference and helping put a smile back on so many children’s faces.

How have the events gone?
We are working hard to achieve our aim of 35 surgeries. On Saturday 13 June, we put on a classical concert in Rye, East Sussex, raising enough to support 23 cleft surgeries. If you missed the concert, you are still able to donate on the website at sing2smile.org! What’s exciting is that this is just the beginning, and there are many more concerts to come, all over the UK.

What makes you smile?
Since I was 8, I’ve loved going to see Chelsea Football Club as a season ticket holder. I never miss a home game if I can help it, enjoying the good days and the bad ones. I also love the passion and pride of being Welsh at the Millennium Stadium for the 6 Nations, singing the national anthem as loud as I possibly can!

Anmol: The Girl Stuck in Darkness


Anmol was born to a poor family in a dusty, border village near Amritsar, India. The birth of a girl is a subdued event in most Indian households, but when Anmol was born, it became a moment of shock and disbelief. Anmol’s family had never seen a child with a cleft before. Anmol’s cleft lip and palate seemed like a curse and the family worried about the future of their daughter.

The family feared that they would face ridicule and be ostracized by their neighbors. So they decided to swaddle Anmol in layers and kept her hidden from all eyes. Anmol was never taken out of the house and if any visitors came, they would find her wrapped up fully in a blanket. She was the daughter who lived in darkness.

Then a doctor at the local hospital told the family that Anmol’s clefts were correctible and she could have free surgery at local Smile Train partner, Amandeep Hospital. Surgery for both her cleft lip and cleft palate were complete successes and the family learned to accept and love their only daughter.

Seven years later, Anmol’s cleft lip and palate surgeries have transformed her life. Anmol is now a beautiful seven-year-old with a charming smile. She is a straight-A student, who loves to sing and dance. The infant who was stuck in darkness now radiates light and brightens the day of everyone she meets.