Vets with Horsepower, an inspirational group of fundraisers!

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After a 4,000 mile motorbike journey through Russia, Finland, Denmark, and Germany the Vets with Horsepower group is proud to say,” we have raised a total of 300+ new smiles for Smile Train. The Horsepower team is proud to help Smile Train in its work and we are immensely grateful to the sponsors, supporters and Smile Train itself for their kindness and encouragement. It was worth every blister and every mile.”

Team rider Derek Knottenbelt says of this year’s trip, “The dust has settled after our amazing motorbike trip to St Petersburg in the summer. Sure it was tough from time to time, but this was NOTHING compared to the life-time of hardship suffered by people with unrepaired clefts. Our satisfaction on safe completion of our trip is matched by our satisfaction that in raising just under £50,000 we have made a significant life-change to 300+ people.”

Smile Trains UK’s Amerjit Chohan, Director, Fundraising, comments: “The sheer commitment and dedication from everyone has been utterly amazing. We’re so proud that Derek and the Vets with Horsepower team chose to support Smile Train. The money they raised will help provide new smiles for more than 300 children. Their efforts will have a lasting legacy for these children. Thank you Vets with Horsepower for all your support.”

From Cleft Patient to Cleft Surgeon: Zhou Xiaomin’s Story

After Surgery(STX ID:GD-4-08-01093)“I was shy, and helpless, the world became pale in front of me. For a very long time I didn’t dare to smile, I was at war with my heart. I spent most of my life overcoming an inferiority about my deformity and my life was filled with inner anguish.”

This is how Zhou Xiaomin felt his whole life, before he received surgery to fix his cleft lip four years ago. Zhou says he grew up in an ordinary rural home in China and he tried to hide his inner anguish from his family. Zhou says, “I needed to teach myself that I had to let go, I belonged to the world too. Life is hard for a lot of people and it was time to pursue my freedom.”

After high school, Zhou decided to pursue a profession in the field of stomatology, the study of the mouth. He was admitted to Gunagzhou Medical College as a postgraduate in 2009. He was instructed by Dr. Zheng Cangshang, director of Stomatology Department of Shenzhen 2nd People’s Hospital, which is a Smile Train partner hospital.

SONY DSCZhou says, “Dr. Cangshang’s positive attitude toward life and helpful spirit deeply affected me, and it filled me with hope for the future.” After years of waiting, Zhou requested that Dr. Cangshang perform his cleft surgery, financed by Smile Train. After the surgery took place in 2010 Zhou said, “My life changed completely since then. I began to learn to smile”.

Now Zhou, better known as Dr. Zhou, is finally the confident young man that he always knew he could be. His dream of becoming a cleft treatment surgeon is coming true, and he has a lot more to smile about. Zhou says he wants to devote his professional knowledge and skills to help more Smile Train patients.

He would like to share his story to encourage more Smile Train patients to change their lives as well. “As a doctor, I will devote all my lifetime to help the children with cleft lip and palate, but we have a lot of work to do. Thanks to Smile Train, you gave me hope and the courage to change myself,” says Zhou.

 

Bere’s Story: No Need For Silence

Javier Campuzano Bere was born in Hidalgo Mexico with a cleft lip and palate. Bere’s mother, Domitila said that Bere had several cleft related medical problems, but despite them, she was a happy little girl.

When Bere got older she was excited to start her first day of school. However, when she got there the other kids made fun of her and started to call her names. When she returned home after her first day, Bere told her mother she never wanted to go back to school again. Bere became ashamed to talk at school because her schoolmates would come and look at her mouth and stare. So Bere gave up speaking at school altogether, and until her mom would pick her up at the end of the day she would just sit in a chair saying nothing.

Fortunately, Domitila found out about Smile Train, and was relieved to find that they would give Bere free surgery, she could not afford, to fix her cleft lip and palate. After the surgery her mother was so pleased and they both decided they would give school a second chance. A few weeks after the surgery, Bere was back in school and the other children were happy to see her.

Now Bere is doing great, she has many friends, and is much more talkative and outgoing. Her mother says, before Bere’s surgery she would never draw faces with a mouth, but now she loves drawing them and now the mouths always have a smile. Javier Campuzano

Li Suhai: An Improbable College Dream

Li Suhai after his follow up nose revision surgery

Li Suhai after his follow up nose revision surgery

Henan, ChinaIn his own words, 22 year old Li Suhai talks about the obstacles he had to overcome while growing up with a cleft in order to attend college.

My name is Li Suhai, I am 22 years old, and this is my story. I was born in a remote village of Henan and my family was very poor. My childhood was spent in misery and ridicule. Other children called me “rabbit lip”, and I was always fighting with them. Even though I wanted to speak, my words did not come out clearly which made me extremely angry and frustrated. Gradually I began to feel inferior and alienated by others.

In hopes of finding a cure for my birth defect, my father sold our only pig and took me to see a doctor in town, but sadly the money was not enough. My father and I returned home that day feeling hopeless. I secretly vowed that one day I would go to college to change my life, and help my family.

In 2003, when I was six, my father heard a message from our neighbor’s radio that a hospital in Zhoukou treats cleft lip and palate patients from Henan for free. With a heart full of hope, my father took me to Zhoukou Central Hospital. Stomatology director, Zhang Yuejin warmly received us, and reimbursed our travel expenses. Before long I got my surgery, and I will never forget the happy look on my father’s face when I revealed my new smile.

Since receiving help from Smile Train I have kept forging ahead in my life. I completed elementary school and went on to complete high school. Being encouraged and motivated by Smile Train’s spirit, I enjoyed learning, and step by step I have tried to improve my knowledge every day. All my hard work paid off the autumn day when I got the admission notice to my favorite college. It was a very important turning point in my life, and my college dream came true thanks to Smile Train.

Very big thanks to Smile Train and Zhoukou Central Hospital for returning hope into my life. I will continue to be grateful, work hard, and dedicate my time to bettering society, and giving back to everyone who cares for me.

The Family With the Largest Smiles

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Janta, her husband Dayal, and their five daughters Anjali, Poonam, Komal, Ankita, and Namrata.

Janta Kumari Singh and her husband Dayal are the proud parents of five daughters, four of which were born with congenital cleft lip and palate. The family lives in the urban slums of Mumbai, supported by Dayal’s modest wage working as a security guard. By chance, the Singh family heard that another local cleft patient received help at Smile Train partner Godrej Hospital. Once the family talked to staff members at Godrej, the parents were relieved to hear that the surgery would be free and available for all four daughters that needed it.

Older daughters, Anjali and Komal have both received their cleft lip and palate surgery at Godrej Hospital and are currently going through speech therapy there as well. Younger sisters Ankita and Narmata have both had surgeries in September 2014 but the surgeon said, “it has been a challenge to ensure that the girls are fit for surgery they are all anemic and are often prone to infections.”

Now all of the girls go to school and Poonam, the only sibling without a cleft lip and palate, helps them communicate with other children and their teachers. Even though the family has gone through a lot of tough times, they have surrounded themselves with infectious smiles and laughter.

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Janta with her daughters Komal (8 years old) and Ankita (6 years old).