Thank You to All of Our Amazing Supporters

New York, NY — This Holiday Season, as we close the chapter on 2011 and finalize our plans to help even more children with clefts in 2012, we have a lot to be thankful for, most importantly our wonderful supporters that keep Smile Train running. We wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has helped us provide more than 700,000 free cleft surgeries with over 300 more provided every day and increase our follow up care for desperate children and even adults that could never dream of affording it on their own.

“Every child is a gift. Every child should be taken care of.”

In a time of economic uncertainty and political turmoil throughout the world, it is incredible to see so many people from so many countries and diverse backgrounds band together to give children born with clefts new smiles and new lives. School children, retirees, democrats, republicans, famous actors and actresses, waiters and waitresses, leading businesses and those on social security, those who were born with a cleft themselves, those who never knew what a cleft was until they saw an ad in a magazine, and so many more people all helping in whichever way they can to provide free cleft surgery and follow up care to children who can’t afford it. Dismissing dangerous superstitions, turning despair into hope, and providing hundreds of thousands of miracles every year.

Smile Train supporter General Colin Powell speaks at a Smile Train event

Recently, one of our corporate partners sponsored a Smile Train donor dinner in Washington, D.C. to update some of our donors on all of the great work we have done this year and our plans for 2012. We were lucky to have long time supporter former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in attendance. He asked if he could say a few words and we were more than happy to oblige. His words cut to the heart of Smile Train’s mission and why so many people work so hard to help children with clefts as donors, fundraising event volunteers, staff, and partner surgeons, medical staff and social worker volunteers.

“There’s nothing quite like Smile Train…nothing matches the reality of a child who believes he or she has no future, and suddenly Smile Train comes to town. It is the smile and the faces of these children that is the reality of the Smile Train effort and the success of Smile Train. Every child is a gift. Every child should be taken care of. Every child in the world we should want to take care of just as we take care of our own children.

“There is nothing more reflective of the best of humankind than what Smile Train has done and what it represents and what it will represent in the future. My thanks to all of the members of the Smile Train family around the world who are helping so many to a brighter and better future.”
— General Colin Powell

From all of us here at Smile Train, our partners, our patients and their families, Happy Holidays and thank you for helping us change the world — one smile at a time.

Sorrow, Courage, and Hope: Wina Anugrah

On November 30th, Smile Train officially announced surpassing 700,000 surgeries. Seven-month-old Wina Anugrah was selected as a representative of this amazing “smilestone.” This is her story.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah before free cleft lip sugery

Jakarata, Indonesia — Despite hard living conditions, Willem and Asima were ecstatic when Asima became pregnant with their second child. They began to put aside the little money they could spare in anticipation of their new daughter’s arrival. However, during the second month of pregnancy, their joy turned to despair, frustration, and fear when Willem was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.

The money they had saved for Wina’s birth had to be used alongside loans from family, friends, and his employer for Willem’s cancer treatment. As his cancer worsened, Willem weakened and had to quit his job. Asima explained to our partner hospital, “my entire family was so sad. My husband was too weak to do anything and I had to open a little market in front of our house to try to pay for food and his care.” After nine months, Asima had still not given birth and the doctor decided she would need to undergo a Caesarean section.

“When my husband saw Wina, he cried. He thought it was his fault because he had a tumor.”

Willem was no longer strong enough to go to the hospital and could not be by his wife during her surgery — when Wina was born with a cleft lip and palate. “When my husband saw Wina, he cried. He thought it was his fault because he had a tumor.” They tried to remain strong and push forward with the help of their extended family, but three months after Wina was born, Willem passed away.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah after free cleft lip surgery

With the loss of her husband, Asima’s sorrow returned ten fold as her daughters would grow up without their father and Wina would have one less loving parent to help her in a world that looked down upon her for her birth defect. This past fall, a social worker volunteering for Smile Train partner Bandung CLP-Center in Bandung Santosa Hospital arrived at Asima’s door. Wina was enrolled at the hospital and recently underwent free cleft lip surgery and is scheduled for palate surgery when she is a few months older.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah and her Mom, Asima after surgery

Sadly, Wina will grow up without her father, but thanks to our partner hospital, she has a new smile and will not have to face a life of torment and ridicule for how she was born. For Asima, the world was finally starting to lighten again, “Thanks to Jesus Christ for this miracle and to Bandung CLP-Center and Santosa Hospital and the team who helped my daughter. Thanks to Smile Train donors and Dr. Koeswara Amoes who performed Wina’s surgery. I hope my husband can see our beautiful daughter in Heaven and can feel this happiness too.”

STOP Clefts Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar — Today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded her landmark visit to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) amidst burgeoning hope that democracy can take hold in the impoverished nation and the announcement of a ceasefire with one of the country’s main rebel groups. These encouraging events come on the heels of the largest Smile Train program in Myanmar to date — offering hope to thousands of desperate children with unrepaired clefts.

From November 13 – 22, Smile Train partners from India accompanied Smile Train Country Regional Managers Som Chunharas and Dr. Ashish Sabhararwal to Myanmar in a continuation of Smile Train’s STOP Cleft program. Led by Dr. Jyotsna Murthy, the team from Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai consisted of 2 surgeons, 3 anestheologists and 7 nurses. The team worked with the three current local Yangon Smile Train partners to not only provide free cleft surgery to poor patients in the cities of Yangon and Naypyitaw, but to identify more potential Smile Train partner hospitals and provide surgical training to local surgeons and medical professionals.

The STOP Clefts team completed 91 free cleft surgeries.

They identified four hospitals that currently perform cleft surgeries and will enter the preliminary stages of full Smile Train partnership.

While local surgeon Professor Ko Ko Maung and the India team completed 91 free cleft surgeries at two hospitals, Som and Ashish met with local hospital officials throughout numerous cities about their cleft programs and Smile Train. They identified four hospitals that currently perform cleft surgeries. Pending approval of the Ministry of Health, Mandalay General Hospital, Yangon General Hospital, Naypyitaw General Hospital and Tun Hospital in Toengy will enter the preliminary stages of full Smile Train partnership.

The STOP Clefts program concluded with a 2 day medical training intensive in Yangon for surgeons and anesthesiologists. More than 20 young and upcoming doctors attended the events, adding to the framework for future Smile Train partners. The STOP Clefts program is currently planning the follow up visit to Myanmar for further education and development of the new partner hospitals. Aside from the 91 free surgeries the team provided, they estimated that with the training programs and new partners, Smile Train will be able to provide an additional 500 surgeries on top of previous goals next year in Myanmar and continue to expand more each year.