Smile Train Celebrates Partnership with Lifebox

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Smile Train thanks Lifebox for helping save lives and for being an invaluable partner over the past 4 years.

Since 2012, Lifebox has provided thousands of lifesaving pulse oximeters to Smile Train partners worldwide. The pulse oximeters measure the level of oxygen in a patient’s blood while under anesthesia during cleft surgery, sounding an early warning alarm if a patient is becoming short of oxygen and providing an opportunity to prevent brain damage and heart failure. Simply put, the pulse oximeters help save lives.

“This is a marvelous device that we use with all our surgical patients in the OR and post-operatively. It permits us to intervene to correct a problem much earlier than we were able to when relying on clinical signs. It is accurate, reliable, sturdy, simple to use by any level of healthcare worker and easy to teach. We send kudos to all who have contributed to this unique and worthwhile project. Many, many thanks for helping us and for the precious lives your efforts have saved.” Smile Train partner, Hôpital de District de Kolofata (Kolofata District Hospital), Cameroon

Thank You For Helping Create So Many Smiles in the Philippines

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This past fiscal year was the most successful year in Smile Train Philippines’ history, and we could not have done it without your help. Our local partners completed more than 5,500 surgeries. Thanks to your donations, we have changed the lives of thousands of Filipino children, their families, and the communities where they live.

The Philippines is now home to 100 million people, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line. As an archipelago, the challenge of reaching everyone who needs our help is magnified.

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Marian with Smile Train patients

This year Filipino actress and TV sensation Marian Rivera helped us increase awareness about the free surgeries we provide and informed the Filipino people about the importance of having surgery at an early age.

I look forward to another exciting year for Smile Train in the Philippines. It warms my heart to know that Smile Train supporters will always be around to provide much needed cleft surgeries, changing the course of children’s lives. On behalf of the tens of thousands of patients in the Philippines, I wish to thank you for your support and I hope you can visit our beautiful country, filled with people who love to SMILE!

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Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano
Country Manager, Philippines

The Story of Happiness

Dr. Meschack Ong’uti (left), with Happiness and her mother, Emina after Happiness' Smile Train surgery.

Dr. Meschack Ong’uti (left), with Happiness and her mother, Emina after Happiness’ Smile Train surgery.

Garoua, CameroonPaul Kimani from Smile Train partner Help a Child Face Tomorrow shares his introduction to Happiness—a nine-year-old girl from Cameroon.

As I was walking around the ward filled with pre-op patients with cleft lips, my eyes was drawn to two, a mother, Emina, seated while sleeping, with her daughter lying on her lap, both looking physically exhausted. I later came to know that the girl was the woman’s nine-year-old daughter, Happiness Betah.

When Emina married all she wanted was a family of her own. “I come from a huge family, seven sisters and four brothers,” she said. All of her siblings were married with kids. But her wish did not come as soon as she had expected, as it took her almost five years to conceive. At one point almost being divorced by her husband.

Hapinness Betah, 9yrs (1)

When she became pregnant it was the happiest moment of her life, not only was her wishes of having a child coming true, but her treasured marriage was not going to crumble. Her happiness was short lived though when she gave birth to her daughter, who had cleft lip and cleft palate, a condition which she had never seen before in her life.

Emina’s life went on a downward spiral when rumors started spreading that she cheated on her husband and that is why she gave birth to a child with cleft. Her marriage on the rocks, she felt as if the whole world was against her.

“We don’t always get what we want in life,” she said tickling her daughter. Emina decided to be strong for her daughter, finally naming her after one month—Happiness. Her fragile marriage could not hold the strain any more though and her husband left her. He could not bear being around a child who he believed was not his as no one had a cleft lip or palate in his family.

Despite all the hurdles, Emina didn’t give up on her daughter. She sold vegetables so that she could afford to feed her. Emina’s and her daughter’s fate changed for the better when she saw a poster at her church indicating a free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries being offered by Smile Train. This news could not have come at a better time. Although Betah was nine years old, she had never been to school because of her cleft lip and palate which impaired her speech.

“I didn’t want my child to undergo more torture in school, kids in the village had already done enough damage, they used to call her names and laugh at her, it made me sad whenever I saw my child playing alone. I just wanted to protect her.” Emina said as she wiped her tears. She could never have afforded cleft surgery for her daughter.

Without wasting time, she borrowed bus fare from her relatives, adding to what she had already saved. The two then set off on a 950km journey from their village in Kumba to Garoua. Happiness was lucky to be among the patients who underwent the free surgery, successfully repairing her cleft lip and palate.

“How can I every repay you? Thank you for giving me and my daughter a new chapter in life.” Emina told the team as she shook hands with Dr. Ong’uti, the maxillofacial surgeon who repaired her daughter’s cleft. “I want to get home as quickly as possible and enroll my child to school.”

Twin Sisters Unable to Part, Even in the Operating Room

Twin sisters Chit and Chun before and after surgery with the surgeons who provided their cleft repairs, including Dr. Jaideep Singh Chauhan.

Twin Chit and Chun before and after surgery with the surgeons who provided their cleft repairs.

Myitkyina, MyanmarSmile Train partner surgeon, Dr. Jaideep Singh Chauhan, from CHL Hospital in Indore, India, shares the story of twins, both born with clefts, during his trip to Myanmar last month. Dr. Jaideep was in the country visiting local surgeons in Kachin, an isolated area of Myanmar, to help train, empower, and foster sustainable cleft care in the region.

With the help of the Embassy of India in Myanmar and the Health Ministry of Myanmar a team of three Indian Smile Train surgeons, including myself, worked side-by-side local medical professionals at Myitkyina General Hospital in June. Together we were able to deliver free surgeries to 84 patients of Kachin State.

Ten-month-old twin sisters Chit and Chun remain the most memorable part of my trip. Born to Ko Dwal Lar (father) and Ma Win Ittay (mother) in Shwegu village of Bhamo district in August 2013, both Chit and Chun shared the same facial defect— a cleft lip. Their parents could not get the condition corrected due to lack of awareness, information, and finances, but they discovered Smile Train through a local social worker. They then rushed to Myitkyina General Hospital where they were admitted, examined, and treated without any further delay. On June 20, 2014 both Chit and Chun received their cleft lip operations at the same time in adjacent operation theaters by myself and Dr. Pritham Shetty.

After a procedure that took about 45 minutes, both girls emerged with a corrected smile that will save them from a lifetime of rejection. Sometimes 45 minutes is all that take to change a life and in this case two lives.

They shared a womb, shared cleft deformity, shared the rejection and ridicule, until they found Smile Train. Then they shared the same moment of corrective surgery and now they share laughter and giggles.

January Social Post of the Month

Mariam before and after her recent Smile Train surgery.

Mariam before and after her recent Smile Train surgery.

Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah.

Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah.


Sunyani, GhanaDr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah a Smile Train partner surgeon at the Nationwide Cleft Foundation in Ghana post the following story to our Smile Train Facebook Page recently his most recent patient, Mariam.

This is a cleft patient I found on my New Year’s trip to Nkoranza North District in Ghana. While in Busunyaa, the capital of Nkoranza North District, I was called by a community health nurse who had heard me speak about cleft on the radio. She had found a child born with a cleft lip. Lo and behold when I went to examine the child I found this nice girl named Mariam. I immediately transported her and her mum to Sunyani Regional Hospital, where I run my Smile Train program. She was admitted on January 6th, operated on January 7th, and discharged home January 8th. She will come for follow up on the 15th of this month.

Cleft Surgery Finds Akhtar

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Multan, Pakistan—Mohammad Akhtar is a 15-year-old boy who grew up with both a cleft lip and palate. His family lives in a remote area of Pakistan known as Jungle Maryala. This area so isolated that in order to get to the nearest city, Multan, 22 kilometers away, one must either travel by foot or animal-pulled carts—there are no proper roads available to get there.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.


Both Aktar’s mother and father are illiterate and had very little awareness about the treatment of cleft lip and palate. Furthermore, as a carpenter, Akhtar’s father was barely able to provide for his wife and eight children, with Akhtar being the only born with a cleft. Due to the family’s poverty, his parents were helpless to address their son’s cleft lip and palate. Akhtar’s mother said that she and her husband worried about Akhtar so much that “they gave him more attention than the other siblings because all others were leading a normal and healthy life.”

One day, a neighbor of Akhtar’s, who often visited Multan, read a billboard advertising Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital’s Smile Train program, providing free cleft lip and palate surgery to patients in need. The hospital was also located in Multan. When he returned home, the neighbor immediately told Akhtar’s father about the treatment. While he was overjoyed to hear about the free treatment as he could not bear the expense of surgery himself, unfortunately Akhtar’s father could also not afford the expense of travel to the hospital. His neighbor then offered provide the father with the carriage he usually used to visit the city.

Akhtar, along with his parents, arrived at the hospital on June 10, 2013 and were welcomed warmly by the staff of the hospital. After the initial checkup, Akhtar was scheduled for surgery two days later. After a successful cleft lip and palate surgery by Dr. Amir Hanif, Akhtar and was discharged on June 15th and returned home.

The team at Bakhtawar Amin visited Akhtar and his family at his home in Jungle Maryala to see Akhtar’s progress since the surgery. His father commented, “Akhtar, having cleft lip and palate problems, was living a very difficult life with an inferiority complex because not only his peer group, but also his siblings, made fun of him.”

The parents were very happy and were thankful to Smile Train as well as Bakhtawar Amin for helping their son when they could not.

Besha Medical Centre’s Cleft Week June 24-29, 2013

Smile Train staffer Jane Ngige (right) and Smile Train Patient Paskali Mading’a pose for a photo shortly after Paskali's free cleft surgery at Besha Medical Centre in Tanga, Tanzania.

Smile Train staffer Jane Ngige (right) and Smile Train Patient Paskali Mading’a pose for a photo shortly after Paskali’s free cleft surgery at Besha Medical Centre in Tanga, Tanzania.

Tanga, Tanzania—Smile Train Africa’s Program Assistant Jane Ngige reports from the the field.

Besha Medical Centre’s Cleft Week was recently held from June 24th-29th. At the time of my visit on June 25th, six cleft patients had already been admitted at the hospital. Prior to the cleft week, awareness creation was done through radio, newspapers, and distribution of posters by way of bus transportation, hospital staff and volunteer mobilizers. A Smile Train-branded van also came in very handy in venturing into the village to create awareness about the ongoing free cleft surgery Smile Train program. Districts in Tanzania the staff visited in the region included Muheza, Lushoto, and Pangani. The staff at Besha Medical Centre are already making plans to visit Kilindi and Handeni districts which are a bit farther away.

Paskali before surgery.

Paskali before surgery.

Paskali Mading’a’s Story
I will call Paskali the old guy who is more of a risk taker than the younger generation from his village. I use ‘risk-taker’ very loosely – it’s more of faith and hope for a better future. Paskali is a 51-year-old gentleman that has lived with a cleft lip all his life. This was not because he did not want or seek treatment earlier. The cleft bothered him but he never had enough money to have it corrected – and later in life, he went to different clinics and was told it was too late to get treatment. In other words what they said was: “This is your life, accept it.” Good thing this did not deter him, because now he has the most beautiful smile. When word came to his village about the free cleft surgery at Besha Health Centre, six patients were identified but were skeptical about the treatment, fearing the operating table. All except him. He traveled over ten hours with a friend who, two days later, requested the surgeon to take a photo of Paskali after the surgery. He printed it, left Paskali in hospital, and traveled all the way back home to show everyone Paskali’s transformation. Needless to say, the rest of the patients hurriedly made way to the hospital for their own transformation!