Mamta Carrol, Regional Director of South Asia Programs talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work with / support Smile Train?
The transformational nature of what Smile Train does, the scale, intensity and range of its work and the enduring impact it makes in individual lives, the lives of entire families and the attitudes of communities, is unmatched. In the developing world societal prejudices driven by superstitions and entrenched attitudes prevent children with clefts and their families from leading normal lives. My work at Smile Train allows me to make a very tangible and real impact on ground.
How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the Power Of A Smile differently?
A smile is instinctive, natural and effortless for almost everyone. Each smile reminds me of the many who have trouble smiling, the magnitude of what we have accomplished and have yet to accomplish. The most fulfilling smile is the smile of our patients after surgery. It radiates the possibilities that our work opens up for these children.
What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
The sheer significance and impact of what Smile Train does makes me feel blessed in contributing – this is a life-changing gift for entire families. It has imbued me with a passion to transform lives. It has gone beyond the definition of a job to become my mission. An article of faith with a higher and more enduring goal in life. Far more enriching than a conventional corporate career and far more satisfying.
Sichuan Province, China – The arrival of a new baby typically brings a lot of happiness to a family, but when little Jiaxin was born with a cleft lip and palate the Yangs knew they wouldn’t be able to afford surgery for their child. To get Jiaxin the help she needed the family moved to Chengdu in hopes that the city would have better medical facilities.
To survive in their new city, Jiaxin’s father worked doing manual labor at a construction site, and her grandmother and grandfather worked long hours every day to make extra money for the family. All of the hard work was worth it when the Yangs found out that Smile Train’s local partner hospital, West China College of Stomatology Sichuan University, would be able to give Jiaxin the help she needed.
Jiaxin, with the help of Smile Train, began her journey to a new smile with free cleft lip surgery. Since her surgery, Jiaxin’s family said they now have a new sense of hope and a more positive attitude in their own lives.
Today, 2-year-old Jiaxin is a lovely and lively girl who loves to laugh and talk.
In March 2015, Jiaxin met Smile Train’s CEO, Susannah Schaefer, along with Shi Bing, Vice President of West China Stomatology Hospital of Sichuan University, and Dr. Shell Xue, Senior Vice President and Regional Director of Smile Train North Asia. Susannah was in China supporting the local nurses at a special training conference. Susannah’s advice to little Jiaxin was to continue to have the confidence to overcome difficulties and to embrace her new life.
Jiaxin’s mother is very grateful to Smile Train for giving Jiaxin the ability to be like the other children, and a second chance at life. She said that Smile Train not only gave them financial help, but also brought hope to them and an opportunity for a brighter future.
Beijing, China — we recently received a message from our first patient, Wang Li, and a cute picture of her son. Since her free cleft lip surgery so many years ago, Wang Li has grown up to marry the love of her life and, last November, welcomed their son, Wang Xiao Yu, into the world.
Thank you very much!! It is your kindness and love that gave me the chance to get such a happy family!! I am so lucky to be one of the patients Smile Train helped and receive good treatment, it brings a smile to my face! I believe if everyone contributes a piece of love, the world will get better for the future, and I believe that Smile Train will bring smiles to everywhere in the world!!
— Wang Li
Dr. Li Kezhu, a plastic surgeon from Smile Train partner hospital 1st Hospital of China Medical University, shares her experiences as a Smile Train doctor.
Dr. Li Kezhu, a plastic surgeon from Smile Train partner hospital 1st Hospital of China Medical University, poses with a happy 12-year-old patient who is about to leave the hospital after her life-changing cleft surgery.
Shenyang, China — As I usually do each day, I was at the hospital waiting for cleft patients to come for our Smile Train program. A couple wearing simple clothing walked in with a 12-year-old girl following behind them with her head bent down and looking very embarrassed — the girl had a cleft.
The couple had come on a special trip from afar when they heard that there was even such a program being offered like Smile Train. After making the necessary arrangements for the girl’s surgery, the father pulled me aside and whispered “Doctor, is Smile Train really free? Is that true?” I smiled and said, “Don’t worry, it’s really free.” The father felt relieved after he heard that. Finally his face showed a trace of a smile.
My team examined the girl to identify if she was in good physical condition to undergo surgery. Then the team of physicians formulated a detailed operation scheme. Soon the girl, accompanied by her parents, was sent from the examination room into the operating room. In order to shorten operation time and reduce the risk of injury, I was absorbed in doing the operation carefully. The assistant surgeon and nurse worked with me closely. The operation was very smooth and completed according to the preoperative discussion program. After she awoke from anesthesia, I took the girl out of the operation room. Right away, her parents rushed to their child. I can still clearly see the tears in their eyes and I know they were tears of joy.
After the surgery, our doctors made visits to the recovery ward to see the girl’s condition and patiently answered all kinds of questions from the parents. Being only 12 years old, their daughter could not stand pain and sometimes would not cooperate with us. She cried when we would change the dressing (bandages) on her lip so we had to think of a way to distract her while at the same time quickly and gently handling the operation wound. Our team was always bathed in sweat after the end of her dressing changes, but no one ever complained about helping this patient.
After being under the great care of doctors and nurses the girl was finally ready to be discharged. With a grateful smile the couple and their daughter said goodbye to us. They kept saying, “Thank you! Thank you for Smile Train!” in an excited voice. Whenever we are able to see Smile Train make a child’s future better, one after another, we also feel very pleased.
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — recently Smile Train supporters Dieter and Martha Faber were in Mongolia and were able to visit one of our partner hospitals. While they were there, they met with Smile Train doctors Ayanga G and Erdenes Aikhan as well as patients and their families coming in for free cleft surgery and follow up care. They sent us this nice letter about their experience that we’d like to share.
Detroit, Michigan — As many babies with unrepaired clefts in developing countries are abandoned, our partner hospitals work closely with orphanages. After cleft surgery, these children are later adopted into loving families. Sometimes, even families in the USA like the Medfords who recently sent us this message.
We chose adoption to add to our family and 4 ½ years after beginning this amazing journey, we brought home our sweet son, Elijah James!
We entered the China program intending to adopt a “healthy” child but after my husband desired to adopt a special needs child, we switched over to the Waiting Child program and were chosen to be the parents to Elijah, a child born with a cleft lip. We brought him home in December of 2011 with no information prior to his time with us other than that his lip had been repaired when he was six-months old.
A client of my husband’s had a friend whose daughter works for Smile Train and she put us in contact with her. To our amazement, a Smile Train doctor was the one who operated on our son. She was able to [find his medical record] and shared with us the pre- and post-surgery pictures, which are precious and allow us to have some information to share with Elijah as he gets older. Smile Train changed the trajectory of our son’s life and we’re forever grateful to them and the masterful hands of Dr. Liu Jiebiao…He’s a very loved and happy child!
He has brought our family such joy and has the most precious smile, thanks to you!
We are forever grateful,
The Medford family
Jody, Daniella, Lexie, Emily & Elijah
Kabul, Afghanistan — He’ll probably never win the Nobel Peace Prize or grace the cover of TIME Magazine, but Dr. Said Aolfat Hashimi is a hero in the truest sense of the word. A plastic surgeon with the talent to live the high life anywhere in the world, he chose to stay in his native Afghanistan and provide free surgery to the impoverished.
In a country that has known far too much violence and bloodshed, Dr. Hashimi and his team at CURE International Hospital, Kabul are creating smiles, sustainability, and the hope for a better future. A partner since 2006, Dr. Hashimi’s team has provided over 2,000 free cleft surgeries. This past quarter was their best ever, as they provided over 180 free cleft surgeries.
Dr. Hashimi has also begun to train another plastic surgeon. His training has been going exceptionally well and expectations are high that he will soon be an official Smile Train partner surgeon. Together, they are driving our programs in Afghanistan and providing hope to children, their families, and a nation.
Check out this video of Dr. Hashimi discussing clefts and how surgery impacts the lives of our patients and their families.