Dr. Esther Nyambura Njoroge, Regional Director, Smile Train Africa talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I studied medicine so I would be able to work for an organization that transform children’s lives. When I read about Smile Train’s work in Africa I knew that was where I wanted to be. Working with Smile Train helps me change the world, in my own small way.
How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power Of A Smile differently?
We take a lot of life’s gifts for granted. Meeting and interacting with patients born with cleft lip and/or palate has made me appreciate my ability to smile. A smile is like an invitation to invite someone into your life. Giving cleft patients the power to interact with their community is a gift like no other.
What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
I wake up every day with purpose and go to bed every night satisfied that I have changed a life forever. I love when I see the joy in a mother’s eyes the moment they see their child after surgery—I’m so grateful to Smile Train for allowing me be a part of a miracle.
Mohammed Nisar and his wife never learned how to read when they were growing up in Southeast Pakistan. This made it difficult to find steady work and provide for their growing family. So Mohammed took a job as a rickshaw driver, primarily to pay for his children’s educations. It was very important to them that all of their children would grow up with the ability to read and have the opportunity to be prosperous.
When Mohammed’s wife gave birth to their fifth child Sophia, the family was shocked to see she was born with a cleft lip and palate. The little money they had went toward paying for Sophia’s siblings’ educations, and the price of cleft lip and palate surgeries for Sophia was completely unattainable.
As Sophia grew older, she avoided everyone she encountered. When she left the house, she buried her face in her mother’s dress or walked with her hands covering her face. When she was old enough to attend a local school with her siblings, Mohammed said that Sophia was immobilized with fits of anxiety and she refused to leave her home.
At nine-years-old, Sophia had a fortunate encounter at a local market with a representative from local Smile Train partner CLAFT. Dr. Zubair A. Abbasi recalls, “Sophia suffered from psychosocial problems. She was very nervous when we met and she was constantly covering her cleft lip with her hand.” The doctor invited Sophia and her mother to a local clinic and she was approved for her Smile Train sponsored cleft lip and palate surgeries.
The surgeries were successful and Sophia got her beautiful smile back. “Sophia was a totally changed girl when I saw her last. She was smiling, did not cover her face, and had complete confidence,” said Dr. Abbasi. Mohammed recently visited the clinic to thank Smile Train and CLAFT. He said that Sophia can freely leave their home and has decided that she is ready to go to school. Now Mohammed’s dream that all of his children will be able to read and have the opportunity to be prosperous is finally a reality.