When Lena gave birth to her daughter Lavender, the whispers about the infant’s cleft lip spread quickly throughout their tiny village of Masindet, Kenya. As neighbors lined up to see the baby, Lena was devastated when she overheard someone saying, “Babies like this shouldn’t exist.”
The family struggled to raise the funds for cleft surgery for more than a year. Lena’s stress and disappointment boiled over during a family argument – she decided to leave the family and run away. Now alone with Lavender, her father knew that he needed help so he asked his mother Irene for support.
Irene fortunately knew that surgery could correct Lavender’s unrepaired cleft lip because her cousin also had a cleft. She told her son that Lavender’s condition was nothing to be embarrassed of. “Stop questioning why Lavender was born with a cleft lip, it is just something that happens, and it can be repaired,” she said.
After asking around, Irene found Smile Train partner, IcFEM Dreamland Mission Hospital and made an appointment for Lavender. On surgery day, the route to the hospital was only accessible by walking so she carried Lavender more than 16 miles through muddy and hilly terrain.
After the surgery, Irene was very happy with the results. “The surgery has made the future of my granddaughter bright,” she says. Irene left the hospital, promising to testify about the miracles being performed at IcFEM Dreamland Mission Hospital. Irene said her next task was to track down Lena in hopes of Lavender’s parents reconciling and raising their child together.
Tomos Lavery and his sister Ffion started Sing 2 Smile, an organisation raising money for Smile Train by showcasing young and exciting musicians across the UK.
How did you become involved with Smile Train and why?
My sister Ffion and I wanted to put our passion for singing to good use. As a dentist, I learned about cleft lips and palates whilst studying for my degree and I know that for a small amount of money it was possible to give hope and confidence to these children. That is when we started the idea for Sing 2 Smile concerts.
What motivates you to keep supporting Smile Train?
Being able to put on concerts with friends and fellow musicians has been extremely enjoyable. We’ve had fantastic support from our local communities, family, and friends. One highlight was meeting other fundraisers and supporters of Smile Train at the House of Lords. It’s wonderful to know that together we are making a difference and helping put a smile back on so many children’s faces.
How have the events gone?
We are working hard to achieve our aim of 35 surgeries. On Saturday 13 June, we put on a classical concert in Rye, East Sussex, raising enough to support 23 cleft surgeries. If you missed the concert, you are still able to donate on the website at sing2smile.org! What’s exciting is that this is just the beginning, and there are many more concerts to come, all over the UK.
What makes you smile?
Since I was 8, I’ve loved going to see Chelsea Football Club as a season ticket holder. I never miss a home game if I can help it, enjoying the good days and the bad ones. I also love the passion and pride of being Welsh at the Millennium Stadium for the 6 Nations, singing the national anthem as loud as I possibly can!
Anmol was born to a poor family in a dusty, border village near Amritsar, India. The birth of a girl is a subdued event in most Indian households, but when Anmol was born, it became a moment of shock and disbelief. Anmol’s family had never seen a child with a cleft before. Anmol’s cleft lip and palate seemed like a curse and the family worried about the future of their daughter.
The family feared that they would face ridicule and be ostracized by their neighbors. So they decided to swaddle Anmol in layers and kept her hidden from all eyes. Anmol was never taken out of the house and if any visitors came, they would find her wrapped up fully in a blanket. She was the daughter who lived in darkness.
Then a doctor at the local hospital told the family that Anmol’s clefts were correctible and she could have free surgery at local Smile Train partner, Amandeep Hospital. Surgery for both her cleft lip and cleft palate were complete successes and the family learned to accept and love their only daughter.
Seven years later, Anmol’s cleft lip and palate surgeries have transformed her life. Anmol is now a beautiful seven-year-old with a charming smile. She is a straight-A student, who loves to sing and dance. The infant who was stuck in darkness now radiates light and brightens the day of everyone she meets.