STOP Clefts Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda — Smile Train’s STOP Clefts initiative recently concluded it’s first phase of activities in Rwanda. STOP Clefts is a program to jump start potential new local partner hospitals in countries and regions that do not have a local team already using established Smile Train partners in bordering countries/regions.

Euginie and Patience after Patience's free Smile Train cleft surgery

The team provided 146 free cleft surgeries.

In conjunction with the University Teaching Hospital and the Ministry of Health’s public health specialist Dr. Bonaventure Nzeyima, one of Smile Train’s partners in Kenya, Help a Child Face Tomorrow provided training to local doctors and 146 free cleft surgeries.

Deeply religious, when Euginie and her husband’s baby girl was born with a cleft lip, they named her Patience — believing that patience in their faith would make her whole. Their strength and fortitude was rewarded as 6-month-old Patience received free cleft lip surgery at University Teaching Hospital.

Smile Train patient Sitefano Niyibizi before free cleft lip surgery

While Patience was spared a life of ridicule and torment, Sitefano Niyibizi endured for 60 years before he could get his cleft lip repaired. He lost hope long ago since he never had the money to travel to the city and see a doctor. When he learned about the university’s bus collecting patients in his village, Sitefano dropped everything and hopped on board.. After his cleft surgery, he told the team “If I die today, I will die happy. Thank you for this gift.”

Check out more pictures at our STOP Clefts Rwanda facebook gallery.

A Truly Unforgettable Anniversary

Smile Train patient and his family celebrate the best anniversary present of all, free cleft lip and palate surgery

Chandigarh, India — Movies and TV shows often joke about husbands forgetting their wedding anniversaries and trying to make up for it at the last minute, but at Smile Train partner Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, at least one couple will never forget.

Last year, when the PGIMER staff finished screening a 6-month-old boy with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, they happily told the parents that the surgery was set for the next day. When the parents told them that the next day happened to be their anniversary, the staff offered to reschedule. However, the parents insisted that the best anniversary present would be the chance for a normal life for their son. The surgery went ahead as planned and both his cleft lip and palate were fully repaired. Rather than exchanging gifts or a special dinner, they spent their anniversary in the children’s ward at their baby’s side.

They returned to the hospital on their anniversary again this year with a gift for the hospital staff — a smiling one-and-a-half-year-old.

55 Years of Waiting Because of Superstitions

Amritsar, Punjab, India — 55 years is a long time to wait for any surgery, let alone for one that could repair your cleft. Mohan Singh knows that all too well.

55-year-old Smile Train patient Mohan Singh before and after free cleft lip surgery

When he was born with a cleft lip, Mohan’s family took him to a local baba, an elder wise-man, to seek out help. The baba told them to not have Mohan’s lip operated upon — that it was likely due to past sins in another life. He also instructed the family that Mohan should never get married. The superstitions that this baba instilled upon the family, robbed Mohan of a normal life. When they grew up, his five brothers married and raised families, while Mohan was forbidden to do the same. When a social worker told him about Smile Train, he was overjoyed with the possibility, but saddened by all that he had missed in life.

A few days later, Dr. Ravi Mahajan of Amandeep Hospital, repaired Mohan’s cleft lip. After the surgery, Dr. Mahajan’s team asked Mohan if he would participate in a press conference on the dangers of superstitions. He gladly accepted so that others would be able to have their surgery at a young age and not have to go through the pain and isolation that he had: Mohan’s gift to others with cleft as he starts his life anew.

Smile Train Update from Dr. Navarro in Peru

Lima, Peru — One of Smile Train’s most prolific partners, Dr. Carlos Navarro, M.D. F.A.C.S. provides Smile Train sponsored free cleft lip and palate surgeries throughout Peru. While he is based out of Lima, he also travels to poor, remote, and rural areas of Peru such as Tarma.

This past weekend, Dr. Navarro and his team finished a two day stint at Hospital Santa Rosa in Lima where they operated on 12 children with clefts and one teenager. That’s 13 more new smiles and second chances at life! In mid-February, the team will be traveling to the Northwestern city of Sullana for the first time to provide surgery and care while evaluating the overall need in the region.

Smile Train patient 6 month old Saul Hinostroza before free cleft lip surgery

6-month-old Saul Hinostroza waits on his mother's lap for Smile Train surgery at Hospital Santa Rosa.

Smile Train patient Saul Hinostroza after free cleft surgery.

Saul Hinostroza in his mother's arms after free cleft surgery provided by Dr. Navarro. He'll have a lot to smile about when his sutures heal.