Patricia Simon: Cleft Patient to Smile Maker

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Former cleft patient and long-time Smile Train supporter Patricia Simon explains why she’s dedicated her life to being an advocate for those affected by cleft lip and palate.

My name is Patricia Simon and I was born with a cleft lip and palate. I had very supportive parents who were able to provide me with cleft surgeries and speech therapy and I could always count on the love and support of my four siblings and friends. I was fortunate, but my family and I also had to traverse a great deal of challenges in my road to cleft repair, which has led me to become an advocate for others affected by cleft lip and palate.

As a registered nurse, I get to work hands-on with people facing health issues in my community. Over the years, I’ve been able to care for babies born with cleft lips and palates and provide support to their families. I’ve found that it’s very comforting for parents to get advice from a medical professional who faced the same situation. My goal is to lead my patients to appropriate care so they can come out of it with a positive and optimistic outlook.

I know how frustrating ongoing medical care can be. Over the last two years, I underwent multiple surgeries to build bone for my palate in order to accommodate dental implants for my two front teeth.

Going through medical care as an adult was one of the many reasons I decided to start my own website called Smile with Simon and my blog Simon Says Smile Today. These sites offers support, information, and an opportunity to network with others affected by cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial conditions. I hope that others will benefit from my knowledge and children can find a space to navigate through difficult social situations, such as bullying.

Birds 300I’m also trying my hand at writing a children’s book about cleft lip and palate. The story is about Simon, a cardinal born with a separation in his beak. It will be a story of love, acceptance, and kindness. It will speak to the importance that a smile has on others. Smiling is so important for the soul!

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead -Nelson Mandela

Peter James ‘Bringing the World Together’

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Peter James, of Market Harborough, plans to launch a local festival to raise money for Smile Train, following his ‘life-changing’ trip to Vientiane, Lao PDR.

After supporting Smile Train for several years, Peter James decided to visit Smile Train partner Children’s Hospital located in Vientiane, Lao PDR, so that he could witness the impact his donations were making in the lives of local children.

During his time at the hospital, Peter met with Smile Train Country Manager, Dzung T. Nguyen, and Senior Surgeon, Dr Chay Phachanh, who educated him on the process of sourcing and treating children with clefts in the region.

Peter 300 2“The trip was an unforgettable and life-changing experience — It completely opened my eyes to how vital cleft surgery is for children living in Lao PDR and similar parts of the world. I learnt that children with clefts are often hidden away from their community, so the first – and most difficult – task for Smile Train is to reach out and find them,” said Peter.

Peter continued, “Smile Train is such a great charity because the surgery they help fund for children is totally life-changing. The opportunity to have a procedure to treat their cleft is a gift and can have a huge positive impact on the whole family — it’s like a rebirth for the family.”

Following his trip, Peter has decided to launch an internationally-themed festival called “East West Fest- Bringing the World Together” in Market Harborough and Bournemouth to raise additional funds for Smile Train. The festival will invite local residents to join together and experience arts, crafts, foods and textiles from all over the globe.

We were so pleased to hear that Peter was inspired by his trip to our partner hospital in Vientiane. It’s always fantastic to hear that our fundraisers are inspired by our work and have seen first-hand the impact donations have for children in developing countries. We are delighted to have Peter as a Smile Train supporter, and are very much looking forward to his ‘Bringing the World Together’ festival.
Hannah Weston, Community and Events Manager, Fundraising, Smile Train UK

Allyson Himelstein brings Smile Train to Dartmouth College

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The following blog was written by Smile Train Young Leadership Circle (YLC) Board Member Allyson Himelstein , Allyson discusses YLC Fundraising events that she has organized at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

I was invited to join Smile Train’s Young Leadership Circle in the summer of 2014, right around the time my boyfriend and I were moving to Hanover, New Hampshire, so he could begin at Tuck. I found a great job at Dartmouth, as well.

When I moved, I was initially concerned about being so far away from the action in New York City and the Young Leadership Circle. There would be no happy hours, no fun charitable gatherings, no meetings at Smile Train’s HQ office to greet new board members and eat pizza — activities that I really enjoy!

After things settled down a bit, I hosted a bake sale in the community center. It seemed like all the Tuck Partners—significant others of the students — contributed something delicious from homemade apple pie, to individually wrapped satchels of caramel toffee popcorn. We quickly brought in around $600 — who knew that Tuck students love to eat so many sweets!

A few months later, when the average temperature was -10°, I thought it would be nice to get sweaty at Dartmouth’s Alumni Gym. My neighbor, a spin instructor by night, happily conducted two back-to-back classes. I called it Spin for Smiles, and before the actual event, I stopped by every shop on Main Street in order to ask for gifts for the biker who put in the most effort and nearly all of the owners gave something — it’s so nice living in a small town where people say yes more than no.

Last week, I organized my favorite event so far. I called it Win a Date with a Hot Tuckie. This may sound familiar if you saw the highly acclaimed film, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. On the Thursday before Valentine’s Day, I partnered with two Tuck students to host a raffle for a few hours before the annual Valentine’s Day Massacre Hockey Game (no, it’s not as macabre as it sounds). Students bought tickets to win a date with one of four eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. The winners were announced with much fanfare in-between hockey periods. We made $630 in two hours! Tuck is one of the smallest business schools in the United States, so I was thrilled with the turn out.

I want to thank the community at the Tuck School of Business. They have allowed me to continue to support Smile Train and have gone above and beyond supporting all of the fundraisers I have planned. I can’t wait to see what the spring brings!

Dates auctioned off at Win a Date with a Hot Tuckie

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No, this is not false advertising – you won’t be buying tickets for a date with either of the women in the foreground. Instead you’d win a date with the perfect gentleman who is a big believer in letting his date bask in the spotlight.

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Need we say more? She is definitely an all-American girl, but unlike the mass-merchandised doppelganger she’s one-of-a-kind. You do not want to miss out on this lucky opportunity.

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Notice anything missing from this photo? Here’s a hint, it could be you. Don’t let the picture fool you though, this guys is a real charmer.

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We’re told that not only does she love giraffes, but that she also loves tripod, yoga, and has an affinity for tequila. Think you can make her fall in love with you?

Eric Harr Power Of A Smile

Eric Harr HeaderThis is my beloved family. We’re all smiles, because we STAND with Smile Train!

What first inspired you to support Smile Train?
Our family has been aware of Smile Train’s heroic work for years. We’d see the ads in magazines, and show them to our children, Vivienne and Turner. We’d say “this is what compassion into action looks like. We are blessed, and it’s our responsibility to help others.” Then we’d write a check together and send it in.

Fast forward to the 2015 Clinton Global annual meeting, and there I am about to sit down to brunch for a plenary session. Who’s sitting to my left, but your extraordinary and wonderful CEO, Susie Schaefer. Total sweetheart. We hit it off immediately, because we were both…smiling! I’m serious! We put our compassion into action, right there, in this STAND.

What does the Power of a Smile mean to you?
Phyllis Diller said: “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” It really does—for the “smiler”—and the “smilee.” I don’t know of anything that easier to do and costs nothing—yet is priceless.

How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power of a Smile differently?
I look at the power of a smile differently in this way: one simple procedure can alter the trajectory of an entire life. I suppose you can measure that in better health, more education, etc. But you cannot measure the ripple effects of that new smile: the impact that person’s smile has on everyone around them, compounded over their entire lives. It’s beautiful when you think about it.

What keeps you wanting to stay involved with Smile Train?
1. The work. The direct line to impact. $250 for a new smile. It’s clear and compelling.

2. The people. The people behind Smile Train are passionate, smart, kindhearted—and fun! And that matters. It makes helping fun. That’s a good thing for everyone.

What has the Power of a Smile done for you in your life?
I’m a big smiler. I go around smiling and hugging people. It can be a little much for some folks, but I believe in the Law of Attraction (which isn’t some Pollyanna notion. It’s a scientific fact.) You get what you put out in the world. If you’re happy and smiling, your life will reflect that. Happiness is a choice—and they’re no easier way to be happy than to smile.

Jessica’s Unforgettable Journey to Indonesia

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I recently participated in my first Journey of Smiles trip. These trips provide Smile Train supporters the opportunity to visit partner hospitals and patients in the field. For me, there is nothing more impactful and rewarding than seeing first-hand how Smile Train gives children second chances at life, and I was thrilled by the opportunity to visit our partners in Indonesia.

Our first visit was to partner hospital Yaya Senyum Bali where we viewed a cleft lip surgery and visited their Smile House. The Smile House was created to offer patients and their families a place to stay and receive pre- and post-operative assistance. Many of our patients travel very long distances to reach our partner hospitals, especially in Indonesia, an archipelago of 18,307 islands! Some of our patients have never seen electricity or running water before they arrive in Bali.

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The staff at the Smile House provides more than just room and board for patients and their families, they also connect them with a larger network of people who are going through the same experience. During their time at the Smile House everyone is one big family.

Some people are so moved by their experience at the Smile House that they are inspired to give back. One former patient was so thankful for all that the Smile House provided for her, she decided to stay on and work as the Smile House’s cook.  She’s able to provide not just meals for those staying there, but support from someone who knows exactly what they are going through.

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From Bali, we flew to Bandung to meet the staff and patients at our partner hospital YPPCBL. Our entire group was humbled by the compassion with which the staff approached their efforts of helping children with clefts. They are constantly pushing themselves to try and find ways to do even more to help their patients. Their whole team, surgeons, speech therapists, social workers and administrators, are so wonderful that it’s not hard to imagine why the people at the cleft center have become like a second family for their patients.

After our time at YPPCBL, we visited former Smile Train patient Elka and her family, who live in a two room apartment on the outskirts of Bandung.

Elka received free cleft palate surgery at YPPCBL when she was three years old, two years later than when most babies receive cleft palate surgery. Repairing a cleft palate at that age caused Elka to develop a speech impairment and require years of speech therapy, provided for free at YPPCBL.

YPPCBL’s speech therapist, who works with Elka, accompanied us on the visit. It was so heartwarming to see the relationship that the speech therapist had with Elka. It felt like she was part of Elka’s family.

I am beyond grateful to be given the opportunity to travel to Indonesia, meet our local team there and share this experience with our supporters. Words cannot describe how inspiring it was to see our programs through their eyes. Without the support of our donors, none of this would be possible.

To find out how you can join us on a Journey of Smiles visit: smiletrain.org/journeyofsmiles

Nina Bolhuis Power Of A Smile

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Smile Train supporter and former cleft patient, Nina Bolhuis, talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What inspired you to support Smile Train?
I think that more people need to be aware that cleft lip and palate is often a very serious health issue—especially for children with clefts who can’t afford a surgery. I recently found Smile Train on Instagram and I was amazed by all of the smiling children Smile Train has reached.

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?
Be self-confident. Once I learned to embrace myself all of the shame went away. You may not look like everyone else but you’re beautiful and strong. Embrace your imperfections, they will always be there, and that makes you, you.

What did being born with a cleft teach you about life?
It taught me to stand up for myself. When I was younger, I ignored bullying by pretending that it didn’t bother me but now I’ve learned to confront bullying by openly talking about my cleft. Once people know your story, they will be less likely to try to hurt you.

Nina 300.jpgWhat makes you smile?
I always say, “Don’t search for happiness, find it.” I think that some people overthink happiness and often miss all of the happy things all around. A child helped by Smile Train makes me happy. My family and friends make me happy. Music and dancing make me happy.


Stuart Hall School for Boys holds 9th annual Smile Train fundraiser

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New Orleans, LA- Karen Vincent, Middle School teacher at Stuart Hall School for Boys writes about her students’ fundraising efforts for Smile Train. They have raised enough funds to provide more than 100 free cleft surgeries.

For nine years now, the sixth grade men of Stuart Hall School for Boys have sponsored a lemonade sale during the month of October to benefit Smile Train. At our school, we work each month on a quality that we would like to improve in ourselves and each is sponsored by a grade level. Ours is Compassion – we do our best to raise as much money as possible through both our lemonade sale and private donations to fund new smiles for children we will never meet, but whose lives will be forever changed by our actions.

I am continually surprised at how generous these men are. We only charge 25¢ for a cup of iced cold lemonade (it’s HOT here until at least Thanksgiving), but almost every child will put in a dollar and say, “Just keep the change for those kids.” Many will bring in their allowance or the contents of their savings bank. It’s truly impressive.

During our Monday chapels in October, we inform the student body about Smile Train and their efforts, so they are well acquainted with what a cleft is and how it affects someone’s life. In the spring of this year, Caitlin Roarke, Manager, Community Relations from Smile Train came to visit us. When she asked the students if any of them knew what a cleft was, every hand in the chapel went up! Later she told me that it kind of threw off her speech that she had prepared – the men of Stuart Hall KNOW about Smile Train!

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