Monica’s Motivation

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Monica was born with a cleft lip and palate in Snohomish, Washington. As an infant she had to stay in the hospital for months because of her many medical complications. Since then she has had five surgeries pertaining to her cleft, but with strength and determination, Monica made it through it all and is now a healthy student at Glacier Peak High School.

Monica joined her school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) with the idea to start a fundraiser for less fortunate children with clefts and Smile Train. In the fundraiser’s first year Monica was able to raise enough for money one surgery.

This year, now as Vice President of Community Service for FBLA, Monica had the opportunity to give a presentation in her school’s auditorium about Smile Train and her own personal story. In her speech Monica says, “…a smile is a symbol of peace, happiness, and love.”

“Over my lifetime I have changed from a person who stood on the sidelines and watched life move around me…to a person who took control of my own destiny.  I can say that I am a lot better for it. I was blessed with the opportunity when I received my lifesaving surgery and have had family, friends, and mentors who have supported me throughout my entire life. It is an honor to be able to come to this phenomenal school and stand up on this stage in front of you all today. Unfortunately, those blessings aren’t universal. There are children who get turned away from ever going to school and whose families abandon them.”

Watch Monica’s full presentation here.

This year her school raised enough money for more than six children to get new smiles. Monica says, “Over these past two years, it has been an honor to be able to share Smile Train’s mission and to be able to support an amazing organization that not only gives the gift of a smile, but a gift of hope.”

Sara Rezk Power Of A Smile

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Sara Rezk, from Fairfax VA is a mother of two, and her youngest, Seleem, was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. Here’s what the Power Of A Smile means to her. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?

CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE! You are amazing children who will have to go through some additional hardships in life. The cleft you were born with does not define who you can or cannot be. Find your passion and run with it.

If you could give one piece of advice to another parent whose child was born with cleft what would it be?

With all the madness and emotions that come with a cleft diagnosis, hang in there. One day you will look back and miss your little one’s wide smile so much! This whole journey will not only empower you as parents, it will have a lasting impact on the family as a whole.

What makes you smile?

Seeing my child being so brave. Nothing gets in his way! At just 2, he is already inspiring so many people around him.

What did your child being born with a cleft teach you about life?

That we really shouldn’t just see people at face value. This is a very diverse world and we need to embrace everyone around us, whether a different culture, appearance, life style, beliefs or religion.

What does the “Power of a Smile” mean to you/ why do you think it’s so important?

Power of a Smile means hope and connection!

What has the “Power of a Smile” done for you in your life?

It has broken barriers and given me the chance to get to know so many amazing people.

Tayaba Humayun Power Of A Smile

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In her own words, former Smile Train patient, Tayaba Humayun, explains how her strength and determination helped her overcome various obstacles growing up with a cleft lip and palate, and how these challenges made her the successful person she is today.  


How did you first hear about Smile Train?

I first heard about Smile Train when I was operated on by a Smile Train partner surgeon in Peshwar, Pakistan. I was very inspired by the way that the team treated me. The love and care they showed motivated me to keep my determination high and this ultimately helped me in my recovery. Since then I’ve kept myself updated on Smile Train via the Internet.

What was growing up with an unrepaired cleft like?

My parents were puzzled as this was a totally new situation for them to deal with, being their first child. Growing up, my unrepaired cleft impacted my communication with others. Except for my parents and close friends, most people had trouble understanding my speech.

The journey of my surgeries started when I was only 7 days old. In 2005, I had my osteotomy surgery which lasted 11 hours and was life changing for me. It greatly improved my looks, and I started loving myself and becoming more confident than ever. But there was still more work to be done.

A few years later, I had my first palate repair and first rhinoplasty. Almost instantly people began to notice changes in my speech. My family and friends’ kind words of encouragement made me forget all the pains of the surgery. Throughout my life my parents have been my biggest supporters. They never let me down, and they always gave me hope, strength, and determination in my life.

What are you up to now?

I take it as a challenge when people doubt my abilities and it has motivated me to show them that I can do it. People used to ask me if I was even capable of studying. I have completed my Bachelors in Computer Science, and am currently enrolled in receiving MBA at the University of Peshawar. Besides studies, I am working full time as an IT Implementation Officer. I am also serving as a Social Media Ambassador for Smile Train and recently joined the National Youth Assembly as a member.

What does the Power Of A Smile mean to you?

A smile is the greatest power that anyone can have. It’s a life changing phenomena. Your smile can do miracles that no magic in the world can do. Every day I start my day with the aim of spreading smiles to others. Although it took countless efforts to make my smile perfect, in return these efforts contributed to letting me bring smiles to others’ faces.

My advice to any child who is dealing with a cleft lip and palate issue is that no one can undermine you besides you yourself. No hurdle can stop you in achieving your dreams if you have commitment and dedication. So go ahead and prove yourself to the world. I assure you then the world is yours.

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Childhood


The True Gift Of A Smile

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There is truly no better gift a child can receive than their very first smile.

One man who understands how powerful the gift of a smile can be is longtime Smile Train supporter and friend, Mr. Horace Whitmore. At 93 years young, Mr. Whitmore lives a quiet and simple life in California. He serves as a Deacon at his church and is an active member in his community. With roots in the South, he worked in the metals trade for many happy years.

His beautiful wife of 61 years, Catherine, passed in 2008. When he saw an advertisement about Smile Train he said, “To go through life without hope or help would be devastating for these kids. I have no children of my own, so it’s a way for me to help.”

With Mr. Whitmore’s 94th birthday quickly approaching he decided that this year he wouldn’t be the one receiving the gifts. Instead, he selflessly committed to helping 400 children with clefts get the best presents they could ever wish to receive: brand new smiles. In his own words, this was his way of “adopting 400 children!”2015022695183332

On February 11, 2015 Mr. Whitmore turned 94. To help celebrate his special day, our Smile Train partners around the world held birthday parties in his honor. Our patients, and their families, who directly benefit from Mr. Whitmore’s generosity were in attendance to eat cake, laugh, and best of all – smile.

I am often humbled, but never surprised, by the generosity of our supporters. It is because of this generosity that we are able to help so many children with unrepaired clefts receive the free surgery and related treatment they so desperately need.

In his own words, Mr. Horace Whitmore explains his very personal reasons why giving to Smile Train is so important to him:

“This world we live in is fleeting slowly surely passing away and one day all who have received the gift of life here on this earth will be changed into a new everlasting life —For God is the author and beginning of giving (John 3:16) . I believe that in some small way my giving what God has given me all belongs to him in the first place. I believe giving to Smile Train to help needy children change their lives from misery, heart aches and shame, to smile with joy and a thankful heart would please God and bring glory to his name. That would be worth more than all the riches that this world holds and that is my joy and hope.”

I hope that Mr. Whitmore’s story and his 94 years of smiles inspires you as much as it inspires all of us here at Smile Train.

Happy birthday Mr. Whitmore – thank you for helping us change the world one smile at a time!

Susannah Schaefer,
CEO, Smile Train

Accepting Bahati

Bahati 1Bahati was born at his mother and father’s home in Ushirombo, Tanzania. His parents were so shocked by his cleft lip and palate that they refused to raise him. They had never seen a child with an unrepaired cleft and believed their son was bewitched.

Bahati was passed to his grandmother, Justina. She said that Bahati struggled as a child because she could only feed him light porridge through a bottle. For three years Bahati lived in the same village as his parents, but they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. The couple even had a daughter they cared for in their own home.

When Bahati turned three-years-old, Justina took him to a local doctor to see if he could repair his cleft.  The doctor told Justina that Bahati’s cleft could be repaired and made arrangements for her to get to Smile Train partner hospital CCBRT.

When they arrived, Bahati was had a coughing fit and an asthma attack. Justina wouldn’t let it deter her from getting her grandson the help he needed, so they stayed at the hospital for two weeks until he was healthy enough for surgery.

After successful surgery, Justina said she was excited to go back to her village and show everyone how great Bahati looked. Justina said, “When we see my son and daughter-in-law at our local well, they will probably want to take him back; but I’ve spent the last three years raising Bahati and he is my son.”

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Story of Mursleen and Muntaha

Mursleen and Muntaha

Shahid, was living hand-to-mouth as a part-time electrician. Shahid married Shezana and the couple was blessed with two sons. Despite being poor, the family was happy that their sons would have the opportunity to grow up and become successful.

One year later, Shezana gave birth to Mursleen, a baby girl born with a cleft lip and palate. Both parents were despondent because they had never seen a child with a cleft before. Their neighbors and relatives started teasing them, saying that their baby girl was the punishment for their sin of pride.

Mursleen’s parents worried: Was this defect treatable? Who will marry her? How will she spend her life? Will she die?

Two years later, Shezana gave birth to another baby girl, Muntaha, who was also born with a cleft lip and palate. Shezana went into severe depression and became ill, most of the time she cried and cursed her luck.

One day Mursleen became very sick and her father took her to the local doctor in the village. When the doctor saw Mursleen’s face, he told him about free cleft surgery at a Smile Train partner hospital. When Mursleen felt better, the family traveled to Smile Train’s local partner hospital in Gujrat, Pakistan with both girls.

The family was very happy with the professional staff and were amazed that all the treatment was free. Both the girls had surgery on the same day, and both surgeries were a success.

Shahid said it was like a dream come true and Shezana was very thankful.  She said that Smile Train came in to their lives at their lowest point and now they are able to go home with a feeling of happiness that can’t be expressed in words.

Muntaha before

Muntaha before

Muntaha after

Muntaha after

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Mursleen before

Mursleen after

Mursleen after

Jennifer: A Smile 45 Years in the Making

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It is true what they say; it’s never too late to start a new life. 45-year-old Jennifer says she lived a life of hardship and sadness until good fortune led her to Smile Train partner CoRSU Hospital in Katakwi, Uganda. It was a new smile a lifetime in the making.

Jennifer was the youngest of seven children and the only sibling born with a cleft lip and palate. Jennifer recalls her father trying to protect her from bullies growing up, but he did not always succeed, so she spent most of her time isolated at home. To make things worse, the family’s livestock was stolen and they were left destitute.

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As much as her father wanted to provide his youngest daughter with a smile, he did not have enough money to take her to the hospital when she was young.  Jennifer had been referred to the regional hospital to repair her lip, but they could not afford the transportation to get there.

When Jennifer reached her 45th birthday, she was unmarried with no children. Her father had discouraged Jennifer from getting married because he felt she would be mistreated. All of her siblings were married and had moved away while Jennifer still lived at home. After Jennifer’s parents passed away, she was left to live all alone in their small house.

Her life changed the day a CoRSU representative found Jennifer and brought her to CoRSU hospital for her free Smile Train cleft surgery. Five months after her surgery, Jennifer’s self-esteem has improved greatly.  For those who saw her before surgery, it is difficult for them to believe she is the same woman.  Now she can eat well, is no longer ridiculed, and says she is ready to make the most of the second half of her life.

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