In Their Own Words

We just got a report back from Sacred Heart Hospital, located in the city of Lantoro, Nigeria. At the end of the report, after all the stats, safety reports and signatures, were these notes written by actual patients.

We thought you’d like to see them: to read in their own words how these four lives have been changed thanks to your donations and the dedication of the team at Sacred Heart.

Smile Train patient note - age 7

Adenuyl, age 7

Note from Smile Train patient, Haruna

Haruna, age 14

Note from Smile Train patient, age 10

Bamgbose, age 10

Note from Smile Train patient, age 21

Rashidat, age 21

Musicians Hitting the High Note for Smile Train!

New York – Over the last few weeks, numerous musicians and bands have raised the bar with special fundraisers to provide free surgeries for desperate children: using their talents to fund our talented partners so that every child can smile. In fact, so many musicians have come forward with their support that it almost seems like we have our own Smile Train record label. We’d like to give a big shout out to all of our wonderful supporters and spread the word about how they’re helping.

Jukebox the Ghost. Jesse Kristin, the drummer of this acclaimed Indie group was born with a cleft and has made it his mission to help others who aren’t as lucky as he was.

I was born with a cleft lip and palate and was extremely fortunate to have access to sensitive, talented, and passionate medical staff for over 17 years of my life, without which my childhood and early adolescence would have been entirely different.  This is just a very small way of giving back and helping kids who are in desperate need of the smallest bit of attention I was lucky enough to receive.

Jukebox the Ghost is performing on the Rombello Cruise from Sept. 29- Oct. 3 with other great acts and are generously raffling off a cabin for the cruise with all proceeds going to Smile Train.

Oksana Kolesnikova. A fan favorite of celebrities and throughout Beverly Hills, world renowned composer and pianist, Oksana, has recently released a special edition album to benefit the children in our programs.

As a mother, I know how precious your child’s smile is. The impact of removing a child’s facial deformity and giving them the beautiful smile they deserve is life-changing…and, it can happen in a handful of minutes! This gift creates such joy and restores hope for their entire family. I am honored to share my music with Smile Train. Please come aboard!

Ready for the Sunshine. Dr. Ralph Gonzalez of the band Luminet, has been supporting Smile Train for years,  culminating in the creation of a compilation album entitled, Ready for the Sunshine: Indie Artists for Smile Train. The band features major Indie artists as well as relatively unknown artists who have donated their songs so that all proceeds will from the album will go to create new smiles.

In 2009, I wrote a song for Smile Train and over the course of 18 months managed to secure donated tracks from established indie bands like Camera Obscura, Lloyd Cole, Taken by Trees, and Jens Lekman among others. The result is 15 lovely songs from around the world (admittedly mine is the weakest!) which most people will have not yet heard.

Andy Mason. Andy shares his musical skills with children throughout the world with his award winning concerts at schools, day cares, libraries, state fairs and if there’s one thing that Andy knows how to do, it’s smile. With his latest song, Smile! Andy hopes to create smiles for kids that will never see him perform and may never hear his music. All proceeds from the downloads of his new song go to Smile Train so that desperate children can know what its like to smile for the first time in their lives.

All of these wonderful musicians deserve a standing ovation and have our undying gratitude and thanks  for their efforts to help the kids in our programs!

For those that have been following some of our many amazing musicians as they create smiles for their fans and our patients, we’d like to share some exciting news.

Andy Mason is taking his Smile! on tour in 2 countries and 4 states! Be sure to check out the video for Smile! and remember that all sales of the song go to Smile Train:)

Oksana Kolesnikova‘s Smile Train benefit album continues to soar with proceeds already making their way to our partner hospitals to provide free surgeries!

Ready for the Sunshine, a stellar compilation from major Indie artists from around the world to benefit the children in our programs, is selling strong and blaring through the headphones of our Smile Train employees.

Jukebox the Ghost has created a new video to promote their raffle for Smile Train featuring their song “So Let Us Create.”

Smile Train Conference in India Underway

Hyderabad, India – Coming all the way from Nigeria, Nkeiruka Obi (NK for short) our new Program Manager of West Africa, met her counterparts for the first time. Under the guidance of expert Smile Train partner Dr. Subodh (of Smile Pinki fame), NK witnessed a cleft examination at a special conference designed to bring together the international Smile Train team and set forth a structural plan for the coming years.

NK is responsible for bolstering our programs throughout Western Africa, a hard task considering the lack of trained surgeons and deeprooted superstitions in many of the countries she will be working in. NK remains undaunted in her task of growing Smile Train’s programs and is determined to make the most of her time in Hyderabad and learn more about the successful expansion of our Indian programs over the last decade and take their best practices back to Nigeria.

As NK pointed out in an email a few days onto the job, dismissing the myths and stigmas associated with clefts is the first step to making sure every child can smile.

 “I just got back from the South West Region, and to my utmost, shock discovered that children with clefts are still being condemned to a lifetime of isolation and suffering in that part of the country, some even abandoned or killed. In fact, it is incredible.

On my way, the taxi driver was stopped by the local govt. ‘boys’ to produce his state driver’s licence…which of course was not available as we were coming from Lagos. After much pleading, they told the guy to pay N42000 before they can let us go. At that point, I had to step in.  I shared with them the mission of Smile Train  and gave them a copy of our flier. Immediately, one of them confessed that this was news to them as from where they are from the belief is that clefts are monsters or rabbits in human form that shouldn’t be allowed to live….fortunately one of them had a brother that had a cleft. With the revelation that a cleft can be corrected and now at no cost, I gave him the contact details of our partners in the SW.”

Thanks to an attempted bribery, of all things, one more patient whose community thought that he was a monster will be receiving surgery and a new life. You can be sure that he’ll be spreading this great news to everyone he can, helping us dispell the local superstitions and help even more patients. With NK’s help, we plan to greatly expand our programs throughout Africa and reach every child with a cleft.

One Million Kicks For Smiles

New Jersey – On Sunday, April 10, over 1,000 people gathered to watch and participate in Martial Arts With Heart‘s One Million Kicks for Smiles fundraising event. The karate exposition and challenge was hosted by the charitable arm of the United TaeKwonDo Academy. Competitors and students of all ages brought forth their skills in the culmination of their year long fundraising efforts. 

The martial arts exposition featured demonstrations by masters and their students as well tests of skill including the group breaking 2,000 wood boards in under 5 minutes.

Throughout the year the students were able to raise nearly $50,000 , presenting a check to Smile Train’s own Anna Lawrence that will provide nearly 200 surgeries for children that would otherwise never be able to smile!

Smile Train would like to give a special thank you to Bryan Klein, Dr. Nicholas Despotidis,  Greg and Laura Saxon, Brienne Alfano, and all of the students, families, volunteers, and donors who made this wonderful event and so many new smiles possible through their hard work, dedication, commitment, and generosity.

A Child’s Smile, a Mother’s Thanks

One of our Smile Train partners, Impact Philippines, which runs four hospitals,  just sent us these pictures along with a special note from the mother of one of our patients. She doesn’t speak English, but Dr. Tian, who performed this great surgery, translated for us.

“I thank you very much for the help you’ve done to my child.  I hope you can continue to help a lot more children. You have made my child beautiful. Thank you very much to all who have helped!”

Dr. Tian wanted to wait until the post operation swelling had gone down and the nurses could finish cleaning her face, but her grandmother insisted that they take the picture with her first new smile.

On their behalf and on behalf of all of our patients and their families, thank you for your support.

Smile Train Indonesia Saves Twins

Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia –

Aris Warsianto and his new wife were overjoyed when she began to show signs of pregnancy. A daily worker at a logging company earning less than $35 a month, Aris was happily looking forward to the birth of his first child, but his wife’s belly was getting larger than he ever expected. A local doctor soon gave the couple the news: TWINS! Months of earger anticipation culminated on what was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. As the doctor handed him his first born son, Aris’ joy turned to sorrow and confusion. His son had been born with a grotesque facial deformity. In shock, Aris clutched his infant son in his hands as the doctor showed him his second son, with an even more pronounced cleft. He could not hear his wife’s calls to hold their sons. He could only stare blankly, wondering what he did wrong. The doctor informed her that their sons had cleft lips and cleft palates: tears ran down her cheeks when she saw her sons for the first time and finally understood what he meant.

In an instant, all of their dreams came crashing down. Their hopes of sending their boys to school and raising a  family, replaced by dread, hopelessness, and the knowledge that their boys would never have normal lives. The doctors had mentioned that a surgery could repair Ahamd Alfin Darmawan and Ahmad Alfan Darmawan, but Aris knew they would never be able to afford the surgery. For weeks, he wrestled with this despair and concluded that the only way to prevent the pain and suffering his boys would face was to end their lives. He thought of numerous ways to do it, but he could never bring himself to commit such an horrific act. Aris and his family would suffer, but they would suffer together.

Then one day, after hearing of the twins,  a man from a nearby village came to speak with Aris. The man arrived with his own young child who was born with a cleft, but had received surgery through Smile Train. Aris ran his finger across the child’s lip as the man told him that the Surabaya Cleft Lip Palate Center would do the surgeries for free. Aris did not wait. The next day, the boys were being examined at Surbaya Cleft Lip and Palate Center as the staff showed the parents pictures of other patients who had the surgery and how different they looked afterwards. The staff set a surgery date for both little boys and lifted the heavy burden from their young parents, renewing the hope and joy that preceded their births. As our Smile Train doctors brought Ahmad Alfin and Ahmad Alfan out of the operating room, Aris could not hold back  tears of happiness.

Thanks to our amazing partner in East Java, the benevolvent stranger who had suffered the same pains, and our donors, Ahmad Alfin and Ahmad Alfan have been given beautiful smiles that will last a lifetime.