Update from the Field: Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano (far right), visits a Smile Train patient this past September. Kimmy recently sent an update regarding Typhoon Haiyan.

Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano (far right), visits a Smile Train patient this past September. Kimmy recently sent an update regarding Typhoon Haiyan.


Manila, PhilippinesThis weekend many parts of the Philippines were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history. Smile Train’s Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano shared this note with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Philippines, including our 60 partner hospitals and 26,000 patients.

As if the 24 storms we experienced this year (plus a major earthquake and war) were not enough…

This week,Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda – our storms are named alphabetically – so we’re now at letter “Y.”) battered nearly half of the country. The “good” thing is that it moved so fast (235 kilometers per hour) that there was not much flooding. But the winds caused much trouble in the provinces it hit. Data gathering is still being done, but, for now, one of the first hit was a place called Tacloban, Leyte.

Tacloban is where Smile Train established a cleft center, through our partner Maharlika Charity Foundation and with generous funding from Dubai Duty Free. There is no internet, electricity, phones, and water in the entire province of Leyte right now, so news is trickling in very slowly. Windows in offices, hospitals and homes shattered due to the strength of the wind. Cars and roofs were literally flying in the air.

Aside from Tacloban, Surigao was also badly hit. We also just established a cleft center in Surigao through Maharlika and Dubai Duty Free. Other locations affected where we have active partners are Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo (these three are still picking up pieces from the 7.2 earthquake that hit a few weeks ago), and Bicol. It is estimated that about one million families are affected.

I have gotten in touch with some of our partners in areas where their mobile phones are now working. Most of them are generally okay, but are very worried about the patients.

Thank you again for checking in on us here in the Philippines – we’re now known all over the world as the place where the strongest typhoon/hurricane/cyclone on the planet in recorded history made landfall (a total of 6 times!). Vietnam is now bracing herself for Typhoon Haiyan, but luckily, it has weakened since it left the Philippines.

To our friends in Vietnam, I hope you and your loved ones will be spared from the typhoon! Please take care and stay safe!

Cleft Surgery Finds Akhtar

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Multan, Pakistan—Mohammad Akhtar is a 15-year-old boy who grew up with both a cleft lip and palate. His family lives in a remote area of Pakistan known as Jungle Maryala. This area so isolated that in order to get to the nearest city, Multan, 22 kilometers away, one must either travel by foot or animal-pulled carts—there are no proper roads available to get there.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.


Both Aktar’s mother and father are illiterate and had very little awareness about the treatment of cleft lip and palate. Furthermore, as a carpenter, Akhtar’s father was barely able to provide for his wife and eight children, with Akhtar being the only born with a cleft. Due to the family’s poverty, his parents were helpless to address their son’s cleft lip and palate. Akhtar’s mother said that she and her husband worried about Akhtar so much that “they gave him more attention than the other siblings because all others were leading a normal and healthy life.”

One day, a neighbor of Akhtar’s, who often visited Multan, read a billboard advertising Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital’s Smile Train program, providing free cleft lip and palate surgery to patients in need. The hospital was also located in Multan. When he returned home, the neighbor immediately told Akhtar’s father about the treatment. While he was overjoyed to hear about the free treatment as he could not bear the expense of surgery himself, unfortunately Akhtar’s father could also not afford the expense of travel to the hospital. His neighbor then offered provide the father with the carriage he usually used to visit the city.

Akhtar, along with his parents, arrived at the hospital on June 10, 2013 and were welcomed warmly by the staff of the hospital. After the initial checkup, Akhtar was scheduled for surgery two days later. After a successful cleft lip and palate surgery by Dr. Amir Hanif, Akhtar and was discharged on June 15th and returned home.

The team at Bakhtawar Amin visited Akhtar and his family at his home in Jungle Maryala to see Akhtar’s progress since the surgery. His father commented, “Akhtar, having cleft lip and palate problems, was living a very difficult life with an inferiority complex because not only his peer group, but also his siblings, made fun of him.”

The parents were very happy and were thankful to Smile Train as well as Bakhtawar Amin for helping their son when they could not.

Journey of Smiles: Brazil

Four-year-old Bianca Lima before her Smile Train cleft surgery and three months after.

Four-year-old Bianca Lima before her Smile Train cleft surgery and three months after.

Salvador, BrazilSmile Train staff member Caity Roarke recently visited Hospital Santo Antonio a Smile Train partner hospital in Salvador, Brazil. While there Caity was able to meet Bianca and observed the quality cleft care provided to this young patient. She shares her experience below.

Bianca Lima received her first surgery to repair her cleft lip at Hospital Santo Antonio in Salvador, Brazil, on July 10, 2013. When I met her last month, she had just turned four and was back at the hospital for a series of aftercare visits. In one day and in one building, she was cared for by a social worker, a speech therapist, an orthodontist, her surgeon and a psychologist.

Every day Hospital Santo Antonio sees patients for everything from pre-screening for surgery, to speech therapy and orthodontics. The facilities at the hospital allow for continuous and accessible after care for past patients as well as those who received surgery at another hospital. Their main waiting area is a circular ‘one-stop-shop’ where patients can see as many as eight different practitioners all in one day. This is especially important to those patients, like Bianca, who have to travel miles and miles in order to see these doctors and get the appropriate care after their cleft surgery.

The last time Bianca was at the hospital she had come for her Smile Train surgery. Before the surgery she never spoke. On the day I met her, she met with a speech therapist to come up with a plan to expand her language. Bianca then met with a psychologist to help her become more comfortable engaging with others.

While she is still a bit shy about speaking, she instantly lit up around the other children in the waiting room and spent the entire afternoon playing games and interacting with everyone around her, laughing and smiling the whole time.Bianca is just one of the many examples of how essential aftercare can be and what a profound effect it can have on children’s lives beyond one surgery.