Peking, China — Kip and Carmen Waistell aren’t your average couple. The Smile Train donors from Hereford, UK recently returned home from an amazing journey driving in classic Austen cars from Peking to Paris and raising money for Smile Train. They drove the cars, nicknamed Mrytle and Kotka, on a 7,000 mile trek and stopped at a number of Smile Train partners along the way to see how the money they raised was being used to give children new lives and smiles. We’re happy to post excerpts from Kip’s chronicle of this spectacular adventure. The first is from the start of their journey in Peking on Wednesday, May 25th.
I worked on the cars all morning discovering that some of the grease nipples were blocked, or the grease gun would not fit. Broke the new grease gun. Got cross and tried to make myself feel better by swearing a bit. Took ages trying to get grease to go where it should, (got it easily pretty well everywhere else!) checking oil levels, checking plugs, making sure all bolts/nuts tight.
After lunch, which left me feeling a bit “iffy”, we were off to the Peking Children’s Clinic, founded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1921, to which we were driven by the local Smile Train representative, Elvis Chen, a charming fellow who had been with Smile Train only three months. We met Dr Zhou, the surgeon, who then introduced us to some of the kids and their parents.
We learned that there are cleft lips, cleft palates and cleft gums. Some kids suffer from the lot. Others have just one or two of the problems. We were told that cleft lips are done first, then the palate. These operations were carried out, preferably, at just a few months old, and the earlier it was done the better, though we were to learn in Mongolia that because of the distances involved to get kids to hospital, and the difficulties in promoting the programme, some children were being treated for the first time as late teenagers.
The hospital, of which the clinic formed part, was enormous. 1,800 beds and 4,000 staff. All the nurses wore head coverings, shoe coverings and overalls. The doctors all wore white clothes. No clutter anywhere, and very clean- this was what we found at all the clinics we visited.
The first patient we saw was a one year old boy who had had his cleft lip repaired, and was now returning to have the cleft palate seen to. He was accompanied by his parents, brother and granny. Elvis had given us gifts from Smile Train to give to them. Then we saw a 19 year old girl who was in for further work on a cleft palate, done some years previously. Finally we saw a four month old girl, Li Siyu, adorable, in for both cleft lip and palate work. It was all very moving, and some of the parents were in tears. Dr Zhou told us that his clinic had now done sixty-six operations with Smile Train, (in about a year since their relationship began), to whom a full dossier would be sent on each patient, with before and after photographs.”