The Kindness of Strangers

Smile Train patients, brothers Winner Ramadhan and Achmad Alwi before and after free cleft lip surgery

Brothers Winner Ramadhan (top) and Achmad Alwi (bottom) before and immediately after free cleft lip surgery

Sulawesi, Indonesia — anyone who has ever been helped by a complete stranger knows just how much that kindness can impact their lives, but few get the chance to repay those who helped them. David Cogswell, a Princeton Fellow teaching at the Anglo-Chinese Junior College in Singapore, recently traveled to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where he met a poor, local English teacher and farmer named Natsir.

“Natsir showed genuine compassion and hospitality to my friend and me, opening up his home to us, introducing us to his family, and sharing what little food he had to make us feel welcome as his guests. Yet I was deeply affected when I saw his youngest son’s cleft, given the lack of cost-effective medical care in the region.”

When he returned, David reached out to his mother, a speech pathologist in the U.S., to see if she knew where to find help. She contacted Smile Train Regional Director Simon Tobing and Program Manager Deasy Lasarati who were able to track down Natsir soon after. To their surprise, both of Natsir’s sons had cleft lips. On January 14th, Winner Ramadhan and his older brother Achmad Alwi received free surgery under skilled surgeon Dr. Senja Adianto. They’ll soon both be smiling thanks to Smile Train donors, staff, David, his mother, and their father’s kindness. This wonderful news will carry further as David is spreading the word about Smile Train’s programs to his network of teachers in Southeast Asia to reach even more children.


We just received this thank you note from Achmad Alwi and had to share it.

Smile Train patient Achmad Alwi sends his thanks for his free cleft surgery

On behalf of everyone in the Smile Train family, you’re more than welcome Achmad. We couldn’t be happier for you and Winner!

Auctioned 1932 Studebaker Raises $79,000 for Smile Train

Scottsdale, Arizona — Paul and Shirley Hill knew their 1932 Studebaker Dictator was special — they had restored and upgraded it multiple times since 1951, including a new Chevrolet Corvette Drive Train in 2010 — and they wanted to make it create even more smiles. After a 61 year relationship with the car, and 58 years of a happy marriage, the Hills decided to part ways with their dream car and donate the proceeds to Smile Train.

Yesterday, at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and broadcast on the Speed Network, the Studebaker was sold for $79,000, all of which is being donated to Smile Train, where it will provide hundreds of desperate children with new lives. Our deepest thanks the Hills for this remarkable and generous donation.

Paul and Shirley Hill Auctioned Their 1932 Studebaker Dictator for Smile Train

A Fresh Start for Long Zirou

Smile Train patient Long Zirou after free cleft lip surgery

Changsha, Hunan, China — Seven-month-old Long Zirou was abandoned by her family shortly after she was born with a cleft lip. Luckily, a kindhearted stranger found her and delivered her to the orphanage Changsha Social Welfare Home.

The orphanage has strong ties with the local Smile Train partner hospital and, when she was strong enough, Long Zirou was brought in for surgery and a new life. Her surgery was one of three simultaneous surgeries performed to commemorate Smile Train’s 250,000th surgery in China.

Ringing in the New Year With a New Smile and a New Life

Nairobi, Kenya — While many people celebrate the New Year by popping a bottle of Champagne and watching the ball drop in Times Square, our patients such as Abdi Hasan are celebrating in a different way — smiling. Smile Train Program Manager of East Africa, Dr. Esther Njoroge, sent us an email wishing everyone a Happy New Year and sharing a wonderful story of the man with cleft whom she met on Christmas Eve:

Happy New year to you all! As we start 2012, I have a story to share.

Smile Train patient Abdi Hassan before free cleft lip surgery

The day before Christmas I was walking in Nairobi town and I bumped into a young man while crossing the road. The first thing I noticed was his cleft lip and I grabbed his arm and pulled him aside. I was more surprised than he was because in all my years at Smile Train, I had never seen a cleft patient walking around town. I introduced myself and asked him if he had ever heard of cleft repair. He told me he was from North Eastern Kenya and had come to Nairobi hoping to get his cleft repaired but so far had not been successful in finding a doctor since he had no money. I told him Smile Train can help him get his cleft repaired, and more so at no cost to him. He did not believe me. Fortunately I had a brochure with me so I gave it to him with my phone number and asked him to tell his relatives to call me. Sure enough that eveing the cousin called. To cut the long story short, we organized for him to be picked up and taken to Metropolitan Hospital on 31st Dec. When they got to Metropolitan and were given the ST consent form to sign, they read it word for word and they only had one question, what is the catch? Will we be told to pay once he comes from theatre or you want to take his kidneys?…the cousin called me and asked if it was a hoax. I reassured him…

Smile train Patient Abdi Hassan after free cleft lip surgery

The surgery was done the same day and Abdi Hassan received a New Year gift, courtesy of a stranger to him! He is doing well. He is very grateful and says he will take the message back to Wajir where he comes from and knows of many patients suffering from the same.

And that, is my New Year motivation to do more for cleft patients.”

— Dr. Esther Njoroge.

In a few more days, the swelling will go down, and Abdi will be able to start a new chapter in his life thanks to Esther, our donors, and Dr. Wanjeri and the Metro Hospital team. To all of our patients who are starting their lives anew, our amazing supporters and partners that make Smile Train run, Happy New Year!