Manila, Philippines—Madi Bennett, a volunteer with Kids International Ministries, writes about her experience with Smile Train in the Philippines.
I started coming to the Philippines with my family when I was four and have loved it ever since. I decided to take my first semester off of college and spend that time serving God by helping impoverished children in the Philippines. One of my projects while I am here is Kids International Ministries’ feeding program. We go out into the poorest communities of Manila and feed children two times a week, Monday through Friday. We serve protein enriched rice, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals. While distributing meals, our group also provides vitamins, deworming medication, and basic medical care.
Our feeding program is what started it all with Smile Train. When I was in the Philippines in March of 2013, I came across two girls, Althea and January. They both had cleft lips. I took a few pictures of each girl and kept them in mind. When I got back home from my trip I started to research cleft palates and cleft lips. I came across Smile Train and decided to try and contact them. I expected the process of getting the girls surgery to take weeks if not months, but it didn’t! Within 48 hours of emailing Smile Train, we were put in contact with Drs. Edmund Mercado and Jennifer Deoduco-Mercado in the Philippines and had Althea and January scheduled for appointments. Both girls went in for check-ups just a few days afterwards and the next week Althea had her surgery. January had a cold so they had to wait another week to do surgery. It is amazing how fast the process went. It was absolutely a ‘God moment’ that makes you take a step back and say, “WOW!”
This past week I got the chance to meet up with both of the girls to see their new smiles. It was so exciting to see them. Althea was very shy and wouldn’t say much, but the look on her mom’s face said it all. You could feel how thankful they were for the life-changing surgery. I met January the next day and we took pictures and talked for a while. She had an appointment on Monday because she needs a second surgery to correct her cleft palate.
Since these first two girls, our organization has been on the lookout for other children with cleft lips and/or palates and have been able to refer and help more children through this process. Smile Train is truly a blessing to the world! They help so many people and it is amazing to experience it all firsthand. Thank you Smile Train for changing the lives of these little children.
You can read more about Madi’s work in the Philippines on her blog: http://eightthousandmilesaway.wordpress.com/