Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo — Smile Train’s goal is to make sure that every child born with a cleft in the world has the opportunity to live a full and productive life, and the only way to accomplish this is through teamwork. Smile Train supporters provide us with the funds which we distribute to our network of partner hospitals, surgeons and hospital staff who work together in and out of the OR to give children new lives. Nowhere is this more evident than in our first operations in the Republic of the Congo.
Earlier this month, three of our best partners in Africa, Jooko Cleft Association (Senegal), AMREF (East Africa), and Sourire a la Vie (Cote d’Ivoire), visited the Republic of the Congo to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery and provide advanced training to a local surgeon and medical team. This mission was organized by Ms. Julienne Johnson of the Congolese organization FELBO. At Albert Leyono Clinic in Brazzaville, the team performed 50 life changing free cleft surgeries in 5 days and worked with the Clinic’s staff to start the training process to become a full time Smile Train partner.
In honor of their exceptional teamwork and the hope that Albert Leyono Clinic will one day become an official partner, we put together this poster featuring their patient, one-year-old Mesange Nsona. Visit Smile Train’s Facebook page to set the full sized version as your Facebook timeline cover and show you’re a part of the Smile Train team.
Lahore, Pakistan — Last week, Smile Train proudly welcomed our newest partner hospital, Arif Memorial Teaching Hospital. Led by Prof. Muhammad Afzal Sheikh and Dr. Farrukh Mahmood, the Arif Memorial team kicked off the start of our partnership in grand fashion: performing 40 free cleft surgeries in their first 3 days!
This remarkable start shows the team’s skills, dedication and commitment to helping children with cleft and the need for our programs in the area. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Arif Memorial to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery and related care to desperate children.
Kathmandu, Nepal — Today’s blog was written by Zachary Shuster, Program Associate.
Yesterday, Smile Train was deeply saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Dr. Prashant Shrestha, a Smile Train partner surgeon working at B&B Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal.
From the inception of his hospital’s partnership with Smile Train in 2006, Dr. Prashant worked tirelessly to provide free cleft surgery to the children of Nepal. He took Smile Train’s commitment to reach every child with a cleft to heart, organizing outreach camps that stretched into the remotest parts of the country. The members of his outreach team hiked for days at a time to reach children in less-trafficked areas and bring them back to Kathmandu for free cleft surgery.
Just last month, I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Prashant and his team in Kathmandu. I was invigorated by their unwavering commitment to Smile Train’s mission, which they identified with strongly and adopted as their own. Dr. Prashant was the embodiment of the Smile Train ideal: a highly skilled and professional surgeon who saw Smile Train partnership as an opportunity to give back to some of the least fortunate people in his country. He provided free cleft surgery to over 1,500 people in only five years. His team strived to provide comprehensive cleft care, including speech therapy and emotional outreach. The patients I saw during my visit were truly grateful; the look of gratitude in the eyes of the parents of younger patients was unmistakable and deeply affecting.
Dr. Prashant took great pride in all that he did for Smile Train, and we are tremendously sorry to lose him. Our deepest condolences go out to Dr. Prashant’s family and to everyone whose life he touched. His life will serve as a reminder of the importance of diligent and purposeful work.
Zachary Shuster, Program Associate, Smile Train
New York, NY — In honor of International Women’s Day, we decided to focus the spotlight on two of our leading women in the field, surgeons Sister Dr. Najjuka Liliana Lucy Gerardine and Dr. Jyotsna Murthy. These two remarkable surgeons have dedicated their lives to giving others a second chance at life and are a constant inspiration to our Smile Train community.
Sister Dr. Najjuka Liliana Lucy Gerardine
A Smile Train partner since 2008, Sister Dr. Najjuka, based at Surgical Centre Smile Train Mbarara in Uganda, is a leading force in delivering cleft care throughout Africa. Sister Dr. Najjuka has provided over 650 Smile Train sponsored cleft surgeries on a continent where surgery is a male dominated field.
She is both student and teacher; never passing up an opportunity to improve her surgical skills and organizing cleft missions focused on teaching more local doctors, both men and women, throughout Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and all of East Africa. She is currently in Burundi teaching a perspective local surgeon the proper techniques to one day become a Smile Train partner.
Dr. Jyotsna Murthy
More than a decade after her first Smile Train surgery in 2001, Dr. Jyotsna Murthy MS, M Ch, DNB has provided over 5,000 free cleft lip and palate surgeries. Not to mention all of the surgeons that she has trained and instructed as a professor at Sri Ramachandra University and on countless medical/training missions, including Sister Dr. Najjuka.
Her generosity and compassion know no bounds as she has spearheaded numerous initiatives in India for surgical care and has been integral in Smile Train’s development of new local partners. She is dedicated to not only repairing clefts, but understanding them as well and is involved in many research projects on the psychosocial problems that can develop from unrepaired clefts and the genetic study of how clefts form.
Sullana, Peru — Whenever a child undergoes surgery, his or her parents are often nervous and a little scared — who wouldn’t be? For 5-year-old Florcita, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, her parents were so frightened about what could happen to her during surgery that they didn’t search for help to have her cleft repaired.
Fortunately, Florcita’s aunt had her own soft palate repaired by Smile Train and when she was discharged she went straight to Florcita. She convinced her family that there was nothing to worry about and that free cleft surgery would change Florcita’s life forever.
Florcita’s father quickly brought her to see Dr. Navarro and his team who went over Smile Train’s established safety protocols and checklists to alleviate his fears. Florcita’s cleft lip surgery went smoothly and when her lip heals she’ll be showing off a bright new smile. Extremely happy, her father praised the team and hopes that Florcita will be able to have her cleft palate repaired soon too as she starts her new life.