Give David a Chance

David Wambani Kenya

Ednah Wambani was shocked when she saw her infant son’s cleft lip, especially since she had given birth to four healthy children previously. She had seen other children with unrepaired clefts, but couldn’t imagine that one of her children would be born with a cleft. During the first few months, Ednah said that her neighbors in Kamasielo, Kenya would walk by the house and laugh at her baby. She was so upset that she never let David out of the house.

A year later, Ednah took David to a local clinic for a check-up. The clinic staff told Ednah that David’s cleft lip was a solvable problem and that there was a Smile Train partner hospital only four miles away. She knew she would never be able to afford David’s cleft surgery on her grocery clerk salary, but after a short evaluation she was overcome with joy to find that David was eligible for a Smile Train sponsored free cleft surgery.

When surgery day arrived, Ednah carried David on her back for the four mile trip because she did not have money for transportation. The moment David emerged from the operating theater she said that it all was worth it because now her baby would not have to live in shame.

On a recent follow-up visit to the Smile Train partner hospital, Ednah reported, “The village has stopped laughing at us, everyone was delighted to see how healthy David looks – now he will be included in our village society.”

David Wambanyi 3 Kenya


Peter Just Wants To Go To School

Peter School

Peter Ojok was born with a bilateral cleft lip in Kabar, Uganda. The name ‘Ojok’ in Uganda literally translates to ‘cursed by god’. Peter’s father passed away when he was young, and his mother Sophia was left to raise Peter and his four siblings alone.

When Peter became old enough to attend school, he was denied entry because of the village’s social stigma toward clefts. Sophia recalls that people always treated the family differently after Peter was born, “they said he was a sign of our family’s bad luck.”

After years of saving her money, Sophia found a nearby medical facility that would operate on Peter’s cleft lip. This non-Smile Train affiliated hospital completed the cleft surgery, but it was unsuccessful. Sophia did not know what to do, she didn’t have enough money for another surgery.

Peter after his Smile Train surgery

Peter after his Smile Train surgery

Fortunately, Smile Train partner hospital CoRSU held a community outreach campaign in Gulu District, Uganda and outreach workers soon referred Peter to CoRSU for his free cleft repair surgery. In March 2015, Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. George Galiwango completed a stunning cleft repair that left Peter’s mother in disbelief.

14-year-old Peter also benefits from free dental care at the newly established dental clinic at CoRSU. Now that the surgeries are complete he plans to fulfill his greatest desire of attending school alongside of his siblings.

Monica’s Motivation

Monica-before-and-after

Monica was born with a cleft lip and palate in Snohomish, Washington. As an infant she had to stay in the hospital for months because of her many medical complications. Since then she has had five surgeries pertaining to her cleft, but with strength and determination, Monica made it through it all and is now a healthy student at Glacier Peak High School.

Monica joined her school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) with the idea to start a fundraiser for less fortunate children with clefts and Smile Train. In the fundraiser’s first year Monica was able to raise enough for money one surgery.

This year, now as Vice President of Community Service for FBLA, Monica had the opportunity to give a presentation in her school’s auditorium about Smile Train and her own personal story. In her speech Monica says, “…a smile is a symbol of peace, happiness, and love.”

“Over my lifetime I have changed from a person who stood on the sidelines and watched life move around me…to a person who took control of my own destiny.  I can say that I am a lot better for it. I was blessed with the opportunity when I received my lifesaving surgery and have had family, friends, and mentors who have supported me throughout my entire life. It is an honor to be able to come to this phenomenal school and stand up on this stage in front of you all today. Unfortunately, those blessings aren’t universal. There are children who get turned away from ever going to school and whose families abandon them.”

Watch Monica’s full presentation here.

This year her school raised enough money for more than six children to get new smiles. Monica says, “Over these past two years, it has been an honor to be able to share Smile Train’s mission and to be able to support an amazing organization that not only gives the gift of a smile, but a gift of hope.”

Sara Rezk Power Of A Smile

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Sara Rezk, from Fairfax VA is a mother of two, and her youngest, Seleem, was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. Here’s what the Power Of A Smile means to her. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?

CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE! You are amazing children who will have to go through some additional hardships in life. The cleft you were born with does not define who you can or cannot be. Find your passion and run with it.

If you could give one piece of advice to another parent whose child was born with cleft what would it be?

With all the madness and emotions that come with a cleft diagnosis, hang in there. One day you will look back and miss your little one’s wide smile so much! This whole journey will not only empower you as parents, it will have a lasting impact on the family as a whole.

What makes you smile?

Seeing my child being so brave. Nothing gets in his way! At just 2, he is already inspiring so many people around him.

What did your child being born with a cleft teach you about life?

That we really shouldn’t just see people at face value. This is a very diverse world and we need to embrace everyone around us, whether a different culture, appearance, life style, beliefs or religion.

What does the “Power of a Smile” mean to you/ why do you think it’s so important?

Power of a Smile means hope and connection!

What has the “Power of a Smile” done for you in your life?

It has broken barriers and given me the chance to get to know so many amazing people.

Tayaba Humayun Power Of A Smile

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In her own words, former Smile Train patient, Tayaba Humayun, explains how her strength and determination helped her overcome various obstacles growing up with a cleft lip and palate, and how these challenges made her the successful person she is today.  


How did you first hear about Smile Train?

I first heard about Smile Train when I was operated on by a Smile Train partner surgeon in Peshwar, Pakistan. I was very inspired by the way that the team treated me. The love and care they showed motivated me to keep my determination high and this ultimately helped me in my recovery. Since then I’ve kept myself updated on Smile Train via the Internet.

What was growing up with an unrepaired cleft like?

My parents were puzzled as this was a totally new situation for them to deal with, being their first child. Growing up, my unrepaired cleft impacted my communication with others. Except for my parents and close friends, most people had trouble understanding my speech.

The journey of my surgeries started when I was only 7 days old. In 2005, I had my osteotomy surgery which lasted 11 hours and was life changing for me. It greatly improved my looks, and I started loving myself and becoming more confident than ever. But there was still more work to be done.

A few years later, I had my first palate repair and first rhinoplasty. Almost instantly people began to notice changes in my speech. My family and friends’ kind words of encouragement made me forget all the pains of the surgery. Throughout my life my parents have been my biggest supporters. They never let me down, and they always gave me hope, strength, and determination in my life.

What are you up to now?

I take it as a challenge when people doubt my abilities and it has motivated me to show them that I can do it. People used to ask me if I was even capable of studying. I have completed my Bachelors in Computer Science, and am currently enrolled in receiving MBA at the University of Peshawar. Besides studies, I am working full time as an IT Implementation Officer. I am also serving as a Social Media Ambassador for Smile Train and recently joined the National Youth Assembly as a member.

What does the Power Of A Smile mean to you?

A smile is the greatest power that anyone can have. It’s a life changing phenomena. Your smile can do miracles that no magic in the world can do. Every day I start my day with the aim of spreading smiles to others. Although it took countless efforts to make my smile perfect, in return these efforts contributed to letting me bring smiles to others’ faces.

My advice to any child who is dealing with a cleft lip and palate issue is that no one can undermine you besides you yourself. No hurdle can stop you in achieving your dreams if you have commitment and dedication. So go ahead and prove yourself to the world. I assure you then the world is yours.

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Childhood


The True Gift Of A Smile

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There is truly no better gift a child can receive than their very first smile.

One man who understands how powerful the gift of a smile can be is longtime Smile Train supporter and friend, Mr. Horace Whitmore. At 93 years young, Mr. Whitmore lives a quiet and simple life in California. He serves as a Deacon at his church and is an active member in his community. With roots in the South, he worked in the metals trade for many happy years.

His beautiful wife of 61 years, Catherine, passed in 2008. When he saw an advertisement about Smile Train he said, “To go through life without hope or help would be devastating for these kids. I have no children of my own, so it’s a way for me to help.”

With Mr. Whitmore’s 94th birthday quickly approaching he decided that this year he wouldn’t be the one receiving the gifts. Instead, he selflessly committed to helping 400 children with clefts get the best presents they could ever wish to receive: brand new smiles. In his own words, this was his way of “adopting 400 children!”2015022695183332

On February 11, 2015 Mr. Whitmore turned 94. To help celebrate his special day, our Smile Train partners around the world held birthday parties in his honor. Our patients, and their families, who directly benefit from Mr. Whitmore’s generosity were in attendance to eat cake, laugh, and best of all – smile.

I am often humbled, but never surprised, by the generosity of our supporters. It is because of this generosity that we are able to help so many children with unrepaired clefts receive the free surgery and related treatment they so desperately need.

In his own words, Mr. Horace Whitmore explains his very personal reasons why giving to Smile Train is so important to him:

“This world we live in is fleeting slowly surely passing away and one day all who have received the gift of life here on this earth will be changed into a new everlasting life —For God is the author and beginning of giving (John 3:16) . I believe that in some small way my giving what God has given me all belongs to him in the first place. I believe giving to Smile Train to help needy children change their lives from misery, heart aches and shame, to smile with joy and a thankful heart would please God and bring glory to his name. That would be worth more than all the riches that this world holds and that is my joy and hope.”

I hope that Mr. Whitmore’s story and his 94 years of smiles inspires you as much as it inspires all of us here at Smile Train.

Happy birthday Mr. Whitmore – thank you for helping us change the world one smile at a time!

Susannah Schaefer,
CEO, Smile Train

Accepting Bahati

Bahati 1Bahati was born at his mother and father’s home in Ushirombo, Tanzania. His parents were so shocked by his cleft lip and palate that they refused to raise him. They had never seen a child with an unrepaired cleft and believed their son was bewitched.

Bahati was passed to his grandmother, Justina. She said that Bahati struggled as a child because she could only feed him light porridge through a bottle. For three years Bahati lived in the same village as his parents, but they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. The couple even had a daughter they cared for in their own home.

When Bahati turned three-years-old, Justina took him to a local doctor to see if he could repair his cleft.  The doctor told Justina that Bahati’s cleft could be repaired and made arrangements for her to get to Smile Train partner hospital CCBRT.

When they arrived, Bahati was had a coughing fit and an asthma attack. Justina wouldn’t let it deter her from getting her grandson the help he needed, so they stayed at the hospital for two weeks until he was healthy enough for surgery.

After successful surgery, Justina said she was excited to go back to her village and show everyone how great Bahati looked. Justina said, “When we see my son and daughter-in-law at our local well, they will probably want to take him back; but I’ve spent the last three years raising Bahati and he is my son.”

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