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.