Mariane Goes, Brazil, Program Manager talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work with / support Smile Train?
Before working at Smile Train, I worked for Smile Train’s first partner hospital in Brazil called SOBRAPAR. I saw the wonderful and important work Smile Train was doing at SOBRAPAR, and the amount of kids having their cleft repaired due to their help. I thought to myself, what a great place to work, I would love to be part of this! My dream was to work with Smile Train, and help them to help more kids in my country… And now I’m living my dream.
What do you think the Power Of A Smile is?
Every time I see a patient, I remember how important a smile is and how important this opportunity to smile is for a child and for their families. A power of a smile… is life-changing! The power of a smile is the power to change all the bad moments that a kid has passed through her/his life to good! To happiness! They can smile now! They can be happy!!!
What has the Power Of A Smile done for you in your life?
I know there is still so much left to do, so many children left to help, and I’m more thankful for our perfect life. Helping people doesn’t always mean donating money, we can all donate a little time to help someone in need.
Guest blogger, William Horan, Smile Train’s Vice President, Principal and Planned Giving talks about his recent trip to Vietnam to see our local in-country medical partners and programs in action.
I recently traveled to Vietnam with my 28-year-old son Sean, who is an avid traveler and who has faced many challenges in his life. I wanted him to see what kids with clefts experience on the other side of the world.
My son and I were also joined by Smile Train’s Country Manager, Vietnam Nguyễn Trí Dũng, who we call Dzung. Dzung coordinated our partner visits and helped make us feel comfortable and welcome after our long journey. He also shared some personal insights into Vietnam’s often-difficult past, which made the trip a terrific learning experience even beyond Smile Train.
We visited two very contrasting partner hospitals, the National Hospital of Odonto and Stomatology in Hanoi and the Da Nang Hospital for Women and Children in Da Nang. We toured both hospitals and met the local surgeons, nurses, speech therapists and patients. What was evident at both hospitals was a genuine and heartfelt gratitude for the Smile Train partnership. Both teams spoke glowingly of how our support has made a difference in their ability to treat children with clefts. Both hospitals embrace our partnership model.
The highlight of the trip was no doubt visiting twin brothers Don and Dai (their names translate to “Big Time” and “Rumor”) at their school and meeting their family. The boys were born with very severe clefts, but now at four-years-old you could hardly tell. They both look great, are adorable and happy, and were probably wondering what all the fuss was about!
After visiting the boys’ school, we went to visit their home. The boys live three hours from Hanoi up in very picturesque hills, amidst rice patties and water buffalo. It was incredibly serene and peaceful there. As Sean and I walked on a dike above the rice patties, we were relaxed and fulfilled, and it was at that moment that I really understood the meaning of Smile Train.
Gulaab, spent 46 years of his life with an unrepaired cleft lip living in Pakistan. Because of his cleft, it was hard for him to find a job, so he made a living moving around from village to village putting on monkey shows. Gulaab formed strong bonds with his monkeys. He connected with them because they accepted him no matter what he looked like. Unfortunately, because of his unrepaired cleft, he was unable to form the same kind of bonds with other people.
One day Gulaab was putting on his show at a gas station, and he was approached by Dr. Ijaz Bashir, who by chance was the founder of the Cleft Centre Gujrat. Dr. Bashir told Gulaab that there was a way he could receive free cleft surgery. Gulaab was amazed and said it was the best news he’s ever heard.
When Gulaab arrived at the hospital, he worried that he couldn’t afford to take a break to heal from the surgery, his shows were his only livelihood. The Cleft Center Gujrat came up with a perfect solution. They offered to help compensate Gulaab by amusing the babies in the hospital who were waiting for their cleft surgeries with his monkey shows and Gulaab accepted the offer happily.
After his surgery Gulaab left with a big smile on his face. He was overjoyed to get back home to see his monkeys.
The day Dolly was born, her mother died due to post-partum complications. Dolly’s father, Ranjeet, grieved the death of his late wife and was shocked to learn that his daughter had been born with a bilateral cleft lip. Completely devastated, Ranjeet decided it would be best for Dolly to be raised by her grandparents.
For eight years, Ranjeet worked as a farmer and saved his wages. But at less than $2 a day, he was sure he would never be able to afford the surgery his daughter needed. For years, Dolly lived with an unrepaired cleft and never attended school. She was teased, taunted and called terrible names.
A family member, living 40 miles away in Radrapur found out about Smile Train and our partner hospital in the region, Futela Hospital. As soon as the family learned of the free cleft surgery program, they boarded a bus, and, after a consultation, Dolly got the new smile she so desperately needed.
Dolly’s father, Ranjeet, is now happy to say that Dolly is currently attending the Genius School Academy and is taking full advantage of her second chance at life. He says, “Dolly is a happy kid, she has two best friends and nobody dares to call her any names other than her own.”
Kimmy Flaviano, Country Manager, Philippines talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
When I first heard about Smile Train, I had always worked for corporations and I was hesitant to apply. But I researched Smile Train and when I found a single surgery could change the life of a child forever. How could I say “no”? It was an opportunity to help change the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos with a simple surgery. Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. I found that job at Smile Train!
What do you think the Power Of A Smile is?
A smile can change everything. You could be in a restaurant and if the server doesn’t greet you with a smile, it changes your mood. You see an old friend and you know how she doing by how wide is her smile is. When your month-old baby smiles back at you, it melts your heart, and you know that you are everything in the world to him.
What has the Power of A Smile done for you in your life?
Since working with Smile Train, I have become more appreciative of the little things in life. I’ve learned not to take things for granted. I think about all the hard work our partners do and it warms my heart. I think about how patients travel for days to get to a Smile Train partner. It doesn’t just affect how I do things at Smile Train, but also at home and how I interact with friends and family, and raise my children.
In her own words Erin Stieber, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Smile Train, details her experience participating in a recent Congressional Briefing.
On Wednesday, February 4, I was honored to represent Smile Train on Capitol Hill for the first ever Congressional Briefing on Global Surgery. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Global Health Caucus, US Represenattives Dave Reichert and Betty McCollum, ReSurge International and the G4 Alliance.
An estimated 170,000 babies are born each year in the developing world with cleft lip and palate, a surgically repairable facial deformity. Without surgery, these children will often be denied the chance to go to school, get married or contribute to their communities, and may even be abandoned or die. An estimated 2 billion people lack access to basic surgical care, and many children with clefts are among them. The briefing gave Smile Train the opportunity to speak about this important issue alongside other speakers from ReSurge International, Stanford University, JHPIEGO, and the American College of Surgeons, among others.
I presented on Smile Train’s sustainable model as one example of a successful “solution” to the challenge of reaching neglected surgical patients around the world. Through our partnership with local medical professionals in their own communities and investment in empowerment, technology, and training initatives, Smile Train has reached more than one million patients with life changing surgery in just 15 years, and has made great strides in addressing the lack of access to essential surgical care for cleft lip and palate.
Guest blogger Jennie Ellis tells the story of how Smile Train worked with CPI Haiti to save the life of a little girl living with an unrepaired cleft.
Saintelise was an invisible child in an unknown village in rural Haiti. She was reclusive, shy, and bound to her home, except for the necessary trips to the market for her mom. Saintelise spent the first 14 years of her life feeling like she was unlovable and an embarrassment. Her parents had never seen anyone with a cleft and were convinced they were being punished. Saintelise was the only one of her nine siblings who was never allowed to go to school. She did not have the opportunities of her brothers and sisters for one reason alone- her cleft lip and palate.
Our team, CPI Haiti, has spent six years in the village of Chauffard, where we have been dedicated to bettering the lives of the people who live there. It is a rural area where we started a school that has grown to 300 students in the span of four years. We have witnessed the impossible accomplished but when it came to Saintelise I had my doubts. I did not know where to begin to get her help.
Her mother recounted a story to me where she had heard that doctors were coming to Port au Prince to see patients, but they could only see the first ten who came. She woke up in the early morning, walked 20 miles down the mountain with Saintelise to get to the hospital only to find out she was the eleventh patient and was therefore turned away. She was crushed and blamed herself for years that her daughter missed what she saw as her one chance of getting help.
Back in the US I started showing pictures of Saintelise to everyone I knew to try to find help. Then a friend of ours told me about Smile Train. I sent Smile Train a picture and a plea for help. From there we were given an appointment date and our team in Haiti prepared for the seven hour journey to Smile Train’s partner hospital.
Because of the surgery, Saintelise now has confidence and has become an active little girl who likes to play with the other children and now attends church regularly. After her surgery Saintelise was also eager to start school in the fall. The community sees her surgery as nothing short of a miracle. Hope has spread far and wide because of the gift Smile Train gave a once invisible child in an unknown village in Haiti.