Parker School Fourth Graders Trade Books for Smiles

A group of fourth graders from Tanya Everts class in Kamuela, Hawaii show off some of the donated books they sold to raise money for Smile Train.

A group of fourth graders from Tanya Everts class show off some of the donated books they sold to raise money for Smile Train.

Kamuela, HawaiiTanya Everts, fourth grade teach at Parker School, describes a fundraiser her class recently completed for Smile Train. The group worked so hard they were able to raise more than double their goal!

Our 4th grade class read the book “Wonder” by RJ Palacio, which is about a boy who was born with severe facial deformities including a cleft palate and cleft lip. Following the story, we decided to carry out a service learning project and one of the students in the class came across an advertisement for Smile Train in a National Geographic magazine. It was instantly decided, we would raise money to help children with cleft palates. We agreed to have a used book sale at our school and donate the money we made to Smile Train. We collected books from our homes, books from other students and faculty members, and books from people in the community to sell. Students sold books for $1-$2 and made book marks that we sold for 50 cents each, but if people bought three books they received a free bookmark. People were happy with all of the books they bought and many even donated extra money for the cause. Our goal was to raise $250 to cover the surgery for one child. We ended up raising $600 which covered the cost of two surgeries and two overnight stays. After reading “Wonder” our class signed a kindness pledge where we agreed to be kind during the year 2013. We also offered people the opportunity to take the kindness pledge for 2013 during our book sale.

Love at First Sight and Beyond

Sule Alhassan (46) and his wife Lami (36) share their joyful anticipation with Oral Health Advocacy Initiative's chief surgeon, Dr. Ver-or,  before their cleft surgery.

Sule Alhassan (46, middle) and his wife Lami (36) share their joyful anticipation with Oral Health Advocacy Initiative’s chief surgeon, Dr. Ver-or, before their cleft surgery.

Adamawa, Nigeria—Many Smile Train patients are only able to fall in love and marry after they receive surgery. Whether it be the stigma, shame, or any other item on the laundry list of negative feelings associated with cleft, these emotions prevent those with unrepaired clefts from experiencing one of the most universal milestones—marriage.

For Sule Alhassan, 46 years old, and his wife Lami, 36 years old, though, having a cleft is what brought them together. Hailing from Adamawa state in Northeastern Nigeria, the couple was among 30 other cleft patients being treated during Smile Train partner Oral Health Advocacy Initiative’s cleft week last month.

Sule (top) and Lami before and after their surgeries.

Sule (top) and Lami before and after their surgeries.

The two met when Sule saw Lami while working as a gatekeeper for the local hospital—it was his first day on the job. Lami at the time was a beggar, stigmatized because of her cleft. Sule recalls their first meeting with much joy. He said he was instantly attracted to Lami for her beauty and because she shared something in common with him. Not long after their first meeting Sule proposed marriage. The couple have been married for 16 years and have 13 children! Through nine pregnancies Lami has delivered one set of triplets, two sets of twins, and has had six single births. None of the children were born with a cleft.

Living in an area of Nigeria where the average person makes a little less than four dollars a day and raising 13 children, the couple never imagined they would be able to have their clefts repaired because of the cost. Thanks to the generous Smile Train donors and doctors they were able to get the surgery they had waited decades for.

Both Sule and Lami had successful surgeries and are excited about their new look, new smile, and new life.

A Message From Wang Li, Smile Train’s First Patient

Wang Xiao Yu, the son of Smile Train's very first patient, Wang Li, is a healthy baby boy.

Beijing, Chinawe recently received a message from our first patient, Wang Li, and a cute picture of her son. Since her free cleft lip surgery so many years ago, Wang Li has grown up to marry the love of her life and, last November, welcomed their son, Wang Xiao Yu, into the world.

Thank you very much!! It is your kindness and love that gave me the chance to get such a happy family!! I am so lucky to be one of the patients Smile Train helped and receive good treatment, it brings a smile to my face! I believe if everyone contributes a piece of love, the world will get better for the future, and I believe that Smile Train will bring smiles to everywhere in the world!!

— Wang Li

Patricio’s Second Chance

Patricio, seen here at two years of age, had his cleft repaired at Smile Train partner hospital Centro Estatal de Atencion para Labio y Paladar Hendido de Aguascalientes a year ago.

Patricio, seen here at two years of age, had his cleft lip repaired at Smile Train partner hospital Centro Estatal de Atencion para Labio y Paladar Hendido de Aguascalientes a year ago. His cleft palate will be repaired shortly.

Morelos, Mexico — Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you are a 33-year-old mother of seven children living in a remote village in Mexico. In order to support your family, your husband has left to work abroad and you must work many jobs from gathering soil for potted plants to collecting edible cacti. On a good day, you make about three dollars doing these things. Also, your youngest child, Patricio, who your husband has not yet met, was born with a cleft lip and palate.

Patricio before surgery.

Patricio before surgery.

This is the reality of Smile Train patient Patricio’s mother, Leonor. When her youngest son was born, she desperately wanted to get him the help he needed, but could not afford to sacrifice what it would take to get to the nearest Smile Train partner hospital one and a half hours away. How would she pay for the trip? How would she make up the lost wages? Leonor sadly determined that Patricio’s treatment would have to wait.

Luckily, Smile Train partner, Centro Estatal de Atencion para Labio y Paladar Hendido de Aguascalientes, heard about Patricio and Leonor and sent one of their social workers to them. They helped provide nutritional support for Patricio to get him strong enough for surgery, and helped with transportation to and from the hospital. Because Leonor still needed to work each day to support her family, Patricio’s eldest sister, 16-year-old Veronica, accompanied him for his surgery and follow-up visits.

Patricio now will have surgery to close his cleft palate and then possibly speech therapy after. At each visit, the the team assures Veronica that neither she nor her mother have to worry about the cost. All the consultations, surgeries, and therapies are free of cost for her little brother thanks to Smile Train.

Leonor, Patricio's mother, poses in front of her home where she along with her seven children live.

Leonor, Patricio’s mother, poses in front of her home where she lives with her seven children.

Patricio and his older sister Veronica who helps with her brother's care while her mother works.

Patricio and his older sister Veronica who helps with her brother’s care while her mother works.


The Worth of a Smile

Smile Train Shubhangi before and after her free cleft surgery

Maharashtra, India — For many of our donors in the United States $250 is a generous amount of money. But in the United States, it is often difficult to realize just what $250 can do. What the cost of just a cup of coffee can mean when that’s all a family makes per day. When a cup of coffee can cost $5 in a U.S. city, just a month of morning coffee can give a child a world away a brand new smile and a brand new life.

For Shubhangi who lives in Maharashtra, India, a smile is worth so much more than a few cups of coffee. Shubhangi’s father works at a grocery store and is lucky to earn 150 rupees a day. That’s only $2.78! Shubhangi’s family could never have dreamed of saving enough money to pay for a cleft surgery.

Shubhangi, a bright nine-year-old girl, longed to be like all the other children in her neighborhood. But throughout her entire life, she was never allowed to be like the other children because her school district refused to allow her to attend school. So instead, Shubhangi, being the bright, young girl she is, persisted. She did her best to learn what she could and studied the books that her seven-year-old brother brought home.

Luckily, Shubhangi’s father came across a local doctor who had heard of Smile Train, and referred him to our partner, Sanveevani Criticare & Research Centre in Naski, India. Thanks to Smile Train, and the doctors who work to spread the word in their communities, Shubhangi was able to receive free cleft surgery. Three months later, we were lucky to get a glimpse of her new smile and the absolute joy on her face when she let us know that she would finally be allowed to go to school!

Shubhangi’s new smile is truly a shining example of what a dollar can do a world away and how easy it is to give a young girl a new life and future!

Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon for Smile Train

Smile Train supporter Tom Cronin was born with a cleft now, together with his students he raises money for children to receive free cleft lip and palate surgery

Columbia, SCThomas Cronin, Physical Education Teacher, Pleasant Hill Elementary and Mini Marathon Event Director shares how his students are creating smiles around the world. Our deepest thanks to Tom and all of the students, staff, and faculty of Pleasant Hill Elementary and everyone involved!

I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Fortunately, I was born in the United States and had surgeries to repair my cleft. There are more than one million children in developing countries who do not have this opportunity. They grow up with an unrepaired cleft and live a life of shame. They are abandoned, do not go to school or get married. Smile Train is a charity that provides free cleft surgery for these children.

Over the last 9 years, my wife and I have made personal donations to Smile Train, but I wanted to do more. I immediately thought of my role as a physical education teacher. In 2007, The Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon was created to help Smile Train and increase the physical fitness level of my students.

Pleasant Hill Elementary raises funds to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery

The mini marathon starts several weeks before the actual run and walk. The students view videos and pictures about Smile Train during physical education class prior to the run/walk. The knowledge about Smile Train and clefts helps the students understand why they are running and walking and who they are raising money to help. All students receive a Smile Train bracelet, and many students earn a Pleasant Hill Elementary mini marathon t-shirt. Our 5th grade art students contribute by making event posters.

On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. By the end of the day over 900 students run and walk in support of Smile Train. The students are able to complete the mini marathon by using the lessons of running pace, running stride and proper breathing technique taught during physical education class. Some older and advanced students run the whole 30 minutes and complete almost 3 miles, while some of the younger students alternate between running and walking. This pattern enables them to complete 1.5 miles.

Students of Pleasant Hill Elementary School ran to provide free cleft surgery

The Mini Marathon is directly related to Lexington School District One’s LexLives strategic goal. This is related to improving the health and wellness of its students by increasing fitness and decreasing obesity. Families and the community are also involved.Families walk and run with their children. Local business partners sponsor the event and also participate in the run and walk.

In the 7 years this event has been held, the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary have been able to fund 376 cleft lip and palate operations for Smile Train.

The Mini Marathon does several things. It gets kids more physically fit through the running and walking and teaches students about helping others and community service. It gives kids the opportunity that I had 41 years ago — to have their cleft lip and palate repaired and live a productive life.

If you would like to get your school involved with Smile Train, please contact us at students@smiletrain.org .