22 Years of Fear

October-19-Blog


When Allo Charles was born with cleft lip, his parents recognized what the condition was, but had never personally seen it before. The children in their village who were previously born with cleft lip or palate were either in hiding or had been killed. Clefts in this village, in rural Chad, are seen by the villagers as a bad omen and are considered a punishment from God for the family’s sins. After Allo was born with a cleft lip, his parents quickly decided that every child is a gift and they would openly raise Allo in their community, without shame.

Almost immediately, there were harsh consequences. Allo’s family wasn’t allowed to attend village meetings, and they were socially ostracized. Allo remembered, “I couldn’t eat or play with others because their parents wouldn’t let their children get close to me. There were several superstitions about my cleft, and they even made me believe some of them. I thought I was cursed.”

When Allo attended primary school, he said that his fellow students and teachers made his life miserable. They said his education was a waste of time and he would never amount to anything. “School for me was hell, but living with an unrepaired cleft made me strong. The more I was insulted, the more I wanted to prove them wrong and make something of my life,” said Allo.

Allo thought that secondary school might be his chance for a better life. The day he left his village for a room in the much larger city of N’Djamena, his new landlord wouldn’t allow Allo to move in. The landlord said that his children were afraid of Allo and he did not want them to catch his disease. Allo decided to move in with his cousin while he figured out what to do next.

Fortunately, during this downtime from school, he saw a Facebook post from Smile Train partner WECCARE  Foundation. He thought the offer of free cleft surgery was too good to be true, but decided to go to WECCARE  after seeing the program was endorsed by the First Lady of Chad. “On that day, for the first time in my life, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. There were dozens of people who looked just like me at the hospital.” Three days later, Allo received his Smile Train sponsored, free cleft surgery.

Allo Now Allo says he wants to repay Smile Train and WECCARE’s  wonderful gift of a new smile by going back to school and becoming an advocate for children with cleft lip and palate living in Chad.

Samantha Johnston Power Of A Smile

Sam HeaderSamantha Johnston, Manager, Corporate Partnerships talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I loved how focused the organization is. I was impressed about Smile Train’s laser-focus of solving a single problem in the most effective way possible. Also, the fact that they leveraged technology to continually improve day-to-day operations was important to me; it allows me to go to work knowing we will accomplish as much as possible every single day.

How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the power a smile differently?
It’s easy to forget that a smile is so much more than a physical feature. To the children Smile Train helps, a smile is a second chance at life. It’s the opportunity to go to school, have friends, and get a job. It’s the opportunity to have dreams that they may never have had without Smile Train.

What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
Knowing we bring happiness to children, families and communities around the world every day keeps me going. Smile Train has achieved some great smilestones in such a short time, but there’s still more work to be done. I want to be sure I do everything in my power to help Smile Train reach as many children as possible.