Courage to Face the World: Elphas Sifuna

Nairobi, Kenya — When Dr. Sylvia Noah met Elphas Sifuna, she met a boy who hid behind an over-sized hat and a large, brown trench coat with a popped collar to cover his mouth. As Dr. Noah spoke to his guardian, Elphas quietly stared at the floor trying not to be noticed. He refused to take off his hat.

Smile Train patient Elphas Sifuna before and after free cleft lip surgery. Courage

“He was a loner and did not have any friends. He had not started school because of his cleft lip.”

As the screening progressed, Elphas whispered a question: he wanted to know if his cleft lip would be repaired and if he would be allowed to start school. Dr. Noah soon learned that Elphas “was a loner and did not have any friends. He had not started school because of his cleft lip. He was a shy boy who would not look you in the eye or talk comfortably unless he had his hat on.”

Luckily, a social worker found him and 11 other children with cleft and arranged for them to be screened for cleft surgery at Smile Train partner hospital Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital. The morning after his screening, Elphas received free cleft lip surgery and awoke from anesthesia a new child.

When he looked at himself in the mirror he was so pleased he could not help smiling. He came to the clinic before travelling home, without his hat or coat on and told me he was going to school. He had a sparkle in his eye, a bounce in his step and courage to face the world.”
—Dr. Sylvia Noah

Thanks to a network of compassionate people, most of whom he will never know, Elphas has been given a new chance at a normal life. By all accounts, he is determined to make the most of this gift.

Dedication and Growing Sustainability in Afghanistan

Smile Train partner surgeron Dr. Said Aolfat Hashimi

Kabul, Afghanistan — He’ll probably never win the Nobel Peace Prize or grace the cover of TIME Magazine, but Dr. Said Aolfat Hashimi is a hero in the truest sense of the word. A plastic surgeon with the talent to live the high life anywhere in the world, he chose to stay in his native Afghanistan and provide free surgery to the impoverished.

In a country that has known far too much violence and bloodshed, Dr. Hashimi and his team at CURE International Hospital, Kabul are creating smiles, sustainability, and the hope for a better future. A partner since 2006, Dr. Hashimi’s team has provided over 2,000 free cleft surgeries. This past quarter was their best ever, as they provided over 180 free cleft surgeries.

Dr. Hashimi has also begun to train another plastic surgeon. His training has been going exceptionally well and expectations are high that he will soon be an official Smile Train partner surgeon. Together, they are driving our programs in Afghanistan and providing hope to children, their families, and a nation.

Check out this video of Dr. Hashimi discussing clefts and how surgery impacts the lives of our patients and their families.

The Most Rewarding Vacation

Smile Train patient Niloy before and after free cleft lip and palate surgery

Sikkim, India — Most people dread the prospect of having work interrupt their vacations, but not Smile Train partner Dr. Parthapratim Gupta.

He prefers to make miracles happen while he’s on vacation.

Dr. Gupta was vacationing in the Himalayas for some much needed rest when all of a sudden a family excitedly ran up to him. At first he wasn’t sure what was going on, but how could the family forget the man who changed their daughter’s life forever? Dr. Gupta had performed their daughter’s cleft lip surgery 12 years ago!

During that time, Dr. Gupta became a Smile Train partner and provided more than 1,600 free cleft surgeries, while their daughter went on to go to school and lead a normal life. The family happily shared their story and gave their deepest thanks, but they had one more favor to ask — they knew of a 7-month-old boy with a cleft lip and palate.

They brought Dr. Gupta to meet little Niloy and his family. Niloy’s father had a temporary job earning about $2 a day, and never thought he’d be able to get his son’s cleft repaired. Dr. Gupta explained about Smile Train and arranged for transportation to his hospital for Niloy and his mother. With Niloy’s mother patiently waiting, Dr. Gupta repaired his cleft lip and palate. Niloy was a bit groggy coming out of the anesthesia, but a few days later, he was heading home with a bright new smile.