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 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, Ari is essentially their coach. using in-helmet intercom system, during the races, which cross a broad range of terrain and distance. The 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.
Tanga, Tanzania—In honor of National Nutrition Month, Smile Train shares a story from Tanzania highlighting the role that timely cleft surgery plays in preventing malnutrition.
When Ahlam was born in rural Tanzania with a cleft lip and palate, her mother Salha, like so many mothers of Smile Train patients, did not know about the common birth defect. Salha’s first two children had been born without incident and perfectly healthy.
Luckily, shortly after Ahlam’s birth, the family was told about Smile Train and that the organization provided free care for thousands of children like Ahlam. The newborn girl would have to wait until she was three months old for surgery though.
During that time life for Salha was difficult. She had no problem feeding her other children, but Ahlam was different because of her cleft. Milk came out of Ahlam’s mouth and nose because she could not suck like a normal infant. With a large gap in her lip and at the roof of her mouth, feeding Ahlam was almost impossible.
Although surgery was a short time away, Salha worried her daughter would not make it. She was not steadily gaining weight and was becoming sick. Despite this, Ahlam’s surgery day came and weighed just enough to go through with surgery.Now at five months old, only two months after her cleft lip surgery, Ahlam’s appearance and health bear no resemblance to the baby girl who entered the hospital for cleft surgery. Not only does she have a new smile, but she has the chubby cheeks of other children her age. The difference is remarkable.
In four months Ahlam will undergo another surgery to correct her cleft palate, which should help her nutrition further as food can still escape through the roof of her mouth. Salha is also looking forward to her daughter’s next surgery and feels this will improve her health even more.
Salha is very grateful for the Smile Train surgery and is happy that her child will have a normal and healthy life.
To help mothers like Salha, Smile Train developed the following resource video demonstrating the best feeding methods for a child with cleft.
Sadly, many children born with cleft are often abandoned by one or both parents. Children like Mili, left on a train in India are unfortunately not an anomaly.
While this story is true for a number of Smile Train patients in the developing world, the issue of abandonment and homeless can also affect children in the United States as well.
The upcoming film Sugar offers a snapshot of youth homelessness. The film follows Sugar, a young woman living on the streets of Venice Beach after her family is killed in a car accident.
She encounters an unfamiliar world that threatens the bright future of just a short time ago. Sugar’s plight is sudden and dramatic, which shows how vulnerable youth can be to homelessness.
Throughout the film, Sugar refuses social services she does not understand or trust. Her decisions are heavily influenced by her homeless peers, who have a deep distrust of support systems. The young adults face common challenges together, despite their different paths to homeless life.
As a new phenomenon, homeless youth pose several opportunities and challenges to outreach efforts. Homeless youth are the fastest growing segment of America’s street population, according to Homelessness Resource Center. Generic views of homelessness may overlook this aspect.
Early intervention helps prevent long term dependence on social services. Before street life becomes a lifestyle, homeless youth can see they have the capacity to be self-sufficient.
Youth subjects present a chance for providers to adapt services to changing demographics. An integrated approach that identifies and treats high risk factors should be adopted. High risk factors include: youth released from juvenile corrections, mentally ill youth, and foster children who age out of the system.
Such experiences create distrust for social services that negatively affects outreach. Social providers who collaborate can offset limited budgets to prevent youth homelessness before it occurs.
With a short history, there is little data to judge the success of social programs, but much like making cleft surgery available to children in need, a sustainable approach to social services is needed.
Homeless youth face increased physical and mental risks. These range from mental illness, drug abuse, STDs and violence. Street youth are far more likely to be in the juvenile justice system. Being cited for loitering or trespassing may limit employment or school prospects, which affects self-sufficiency.
Shenae Grimes (90210), Marshall Allman and a young cast bring star power that younger audiences can relate to. Many viewers come to realize they are not altogether different from the young characters.
Cast and crew were invited to a film screening before Congress in June, 2013. The screening was a step towards giving homeless youth a voice in public policy. Sugar also earned the Film Heals Award at The Manhattan Film Festival in July 2013.
Peshawar, Pakistan—When Muhammad Abdullah was born a little over a year ago his parents’ joy over the birth of their first child was quickly replaced by fear and worry. The newborn baby had arrived with a cleft lip and palate.
“When I was in my first pregnancy I had so many beautiful thoughts about my baby, but when I saw my little baby after birth I was really shocked because this was the first case of cleft in the family,” said Abdullah’s mother. “The second difficult thing that I faced were people’s expressions and their questions about Abdullah, like what happened to him and how it happened.”
In the region of Pakistan surrounding Peshawar, where Abdullah was born, exists many myths about children born with clefts. Many believe that if a pregnant woman works during a moon or sun eclipse that her unborn child will develop a cleft, especially if she is using a knife at the time of the eclipse. As Abdullah was the only one in his family with cleft there was little awareness about the condition to know otherwise.
As with many cleft lip and palate patients Abdullah had some initial difficulty feeding. When the family approached a doctor to help with their child’s malnourishment they were told that their son’s cleft could be repaired and were connected to a plastic surgeon. With the first hurdle of their son’s feeding cleared the new parents were ready to get the surgery required to close the gap in Abdullah’s lip and mouth. As quickly as they overcome one difficulty, they were met with another—the cost of the surgery.The young parents were stuck. Should they get the treatment their son needs, but incure an unpayable debt that would put the family in a financial crisis?
The surgeon shared the name of organization who might be able to help—Smile Train. The couple took to Facebook and were able to connect to the organization, and ultimately to the Smile Train partner hospital who would repair their son’s cleft at no cost to them.
While very nervous on the date of their son’s surgery, the couple was relieved after its completion that they and their son would no longer be the center of attention due to his birth defect. “The smiling face of my son sweeps all my worries away,” said Abdullah’s mother.
“Thanks to Smile Train and the doctors who made my son smile,” she added. “And his parents too. Now we are all happy.”
Sunyani, Ghana—Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah a Smile Train partner surgeon at the Nationwide Cleft Foundation in Ghana post the following story to our Smile Train Facebook Page recently his most recent patient, Mariam.
This is a cleft patient I found on my New Year’s trip to Nkoranza North District in Ghana. While in Busunyaa, the capital of Nkoranza North District, I was called by a community health nurse who had heard me speak about cleft on the radio. She had found a child born with a cleft lip. Lo and behold when I went to examine the child I found this nice girl named Mariam. I immediately transported her and her mum to Sunyani Regional Hospital, where I run my Smile Train program. She was admitted on January 6th, operated on January 7th, and discharged home January 8th. She will come for follow up on the 15th of this month.
Peshawar, Pakistan—Fourteen-year-old Naveed Khan just may be the world’s best brother.
One of two siblings born with cleft, it seemed certain that Naveed and his sister would live the rest of their years without receiving the cleft repair surgeries they needed. The children’s parents, family members, and neighbors knew nothing about clefts. To them it was a curse from God. Even if the family had known that a simple surgery could help the brother and sister, there was no money to provide it.
The siblings were never sent to school and had no friends. Naveed’s sister spent her time in the home helping her mother with cleaning, sweeping, and chores in the kitchen, while Naveed went to work in the fields with his father. They secretly prayed for a miracle.
Soon other villagers became aware of the children’s clefts. Word that the son of a farmhand had an unrepaired cleft lip reached the villagers’ landlord. He quickly offered to sponsor Naveed’s cleft surgery.
Naveed was excited to hear that there was a cure for his misery. Although elated by the words of hope from the landlord, Naveed was also anxious. He told the landlord about his sister and asked if she too could receive surgery. With a heavy heart, the landlord sadly told Naveed and his father that he could not afford to pay for both surgeries.
Naveed decided to sacrifice for his opportunity so that his sister could receive the life-changing surgery first. Naveed told his father that the surgery would more positively impact her life—she could leave the house and eventually get married. Naveed’s sister had the surgery done while his cleft was left unrepaired. Although he was very happy for his sister, Naveed now knew that a smiling life was just one surgery away, but he could not have it.
Last month the family found Smile Train and its free cleft surgery program at Al-Shifa Health Care Center. They wasted no time and rushed to the clinic. Naveed got his free Smile Train surgery done last week and his joy after surgery could not be expressed in words. He is now a happy boy wearing a big smile rather than the scarf he used to cover his face.
In the words of his father, “Naveed got the payback and reward for the sacrifice he made for his sister.”
Beijing, China—Xinrui is a two-year-old girl from Bei Gao Li Village, a rural part of China’s Hebei province. When you see her bright smile today you would never know that she was born with both a cleft lip and palate.
Thanks to the generous support of Smile Train donors and the doctors of Beijing Stomatological Hospital, Xinrui received her free Smile Train cleft lip surgery when she was just three months old and her palate surgery shortly after at 16 months. Because she received cleft surgery so early in life she will never know the teasing or difficulties eating and speaking that so many other children born with clefts face.
Today Xinrui is a cheerful and smart little girl. Although she’s only two years old, she has already become a small leader amongst her friends. Her cleverness has made her a favorite among the adults in her community as well. When little Xinrui visits their houses to play they call it “the happy hour.”
Xinrui lives a happy life with love and care from all of her family and friends.