A Fresh Start for Little Jiaxin


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.

Pre-Operation(IDú║sc-13-77954)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.3

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. 2


From Cleft Patient to Cleft Surgeon: Zhou Xiaomin’s Story

After Surgery(STX ID:GD-4-08-01093)“I was shy, and helpless, the world became pale in front of me. For a very long time I didn’t dare to smile, I was at war with my heart. I spent most of my life overcoming an inferiority about my deformity and my life was filled with inner anguish.”

This is how Zhou Xiaomin felt his whole life, before he received surgery to fix his cleft lip four years ago. Zhou says he grew up in an ordinary rural home in China and he tried to hide his inner anguish from his family. Zhou says, “I needed to teach myself that I had to let go, I belonged to the world too. Life is hard for a lot of people and it was time to pursue my freedom.”

After high school, Zhou decided to pursue a profession in the field of stomatology, the study of the mouth. He was admitted to Gunagzhou Medical College as a postgraduate in 2009. He was instructed by Dr. Zheng Cangshang, director of Stomatology Department of Shenzhen 2nd People’s Hospital, which is a Smile Train partner hospital.

SONY DSCZhou says, “Dr. Cangshang’s positive attitude toward life and helpful spirit deeply affected me, and it filled me with hope for the future.” After years of waiting, Zhou requested that Dr. Cangshang perform his cleft surgery, financed by Smile Train. After the surgery took place in 2010 Zhou said, “My life changed completely since then. I began to learn to smile”.

Now Zhou, better known as Dr. Zhou, is finally the confident young man that he always knew he could be. His dream of becoming a cleft treatment surgeon is coming true, and he has a lot more to smile about. Zhou says he wants to devote his professional knowledge and skills to help more Smile Train patients.

He would like to share his story to encourage more Smile Train patients to change their lives as well. “As a doctor, I will devote all my lifetime to help the children with cleft lip and palate, but we have a lot of work to do. Thanks to Smile Train, you gave me hope and the courage to change myself,” says Zhou.


Li Suhai: An Improbable College Dream

Li Suhai after his follow up nose revision surgery

Li Suhai after his follow up nose revision surgery

Henan, ChinaIn his own words, 22 year old Li Suhai talks about the obstacles he had to overcome while growing up with a cleft in order to attend college.

My name is Li Suhai, I am 22 years old, and this is my story. I was born in a remote village of Henan and my family was very poor. My childhood was spent in misery and ridicule. Other children called me “rabbit lip”, and I was always fighting with them. Even though I wanted to speak, my words did not come out clearly which made me extremely angry and frustrated. Gradually I began to feel inferior and alienated by others.

In hopes of finding a cure for my birth defect, my father sold our only pig and took me to see a doctor in town, but sadly the money was not enough. My father and I returned home that day feeling hopeless. I secretly vowed that one day I would go to college to change my life, and help my family.

In 2003, when I was six, my father heard a message from our neighbor’s radio that a hospital in Zhoukou treats cleft lip and palate patients from Henan for free. With a heart full of hope, my father took me to Zhoukou Central Hospital. Stomatology director, Zhang Yuejin warmly received us, and reimbursed our travel expenses. Before long I got my surgery, and I will never forget the happy look on my father’s face when I revealed my new smile.

Since receiving help from Smile Train I have kept forging ahead in my life. I completed elementary school and went on to complete high school. Being encouraged and motivated by Smile Train’s spirit, I enjoyed learning, and step by step I have tried to improve my knowledge every day. All my hard work paid off the autumn day when I got the admission notice to my favorite college. It was a very important turning point in my life, and my college dream came true thanks to Smile Train.

Very big thanks to Smile Train and Zhoukou Central Hospital for returning hope into my life. I will continue to be grateful, work hard, and dedicate my time to bettering society, and giving back to everyone who cares for me.

A Letter of Thanks Sent From Big Mountain

Lu Hejing, Guisheng, and Dr. Li after surgery.

Yunnan Province, ChinaA volunteer from Taiwan, writes a letter to a Smile Train Partner Doctor thanking him for helping an 11-year-old boy born with a cleft lip.

Dear Doctor Li,

This is a letter of thanks sent from my inner heart. Thanks to your medical skills and meticulous arrangements, surgeries in Kunming are running smoothly. Thank you so much!

A boy named Guisheng turned eleven this year, but he is only in his second year of primary school. Both of his parents have been limited because neither of them can read or write, and they work as farmers who struggle to make ends meet. The family originally had one large piece of farmland for growing corn, but due to continuous droughts in Yunnan Province they had to move to find a source of water. This move cost them money that they didn’t really have, and therefore they had no money left to build their own house.

Despite their financial problems, the family still blames themselves for not being able to give Guisheng an operation to fix his cleft. They have been saving up money and trying to get loans ever since he was born, but all they have gotten is 300 Yuan which is equal to less than $50 US dollars. When they found out about Smile Train, and that Guisheng could receive surgery for free, they still insisted on arranging their own transportation to and from the hospital, and paying for their own food at the hospital. They said this was important to them because they respect and cherish this precious opportunity for free treatment.

After Guisheng’s surgery was completed, his family was so grateful that they could barely even look at me while leaving the hospital. One morning when I woke up a voice suddenly popped out in my heart, telling me that this was why I had chosen to come to Yunnan. Sincere gratitude, Doctor Li!

Yours truly,

Lu Hejing
Volunteer from Taiwan
Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Guisheng waiting for surgery.

Guisheng waiting for surgery.

New Smile, New Life in America: Poppy’s Story

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Several months ago Smile Train supporter, Kristina Lu, adopted her daughter, Poppy, from China. Poppy was born with a cleft palate, but thanks to Smile Train was able to receive free surgery. In her own words Kristina shares her story.

My husband read about Smile Train from the chapter in FreakonomicsTM soon after the book came out.  We liked the way they ran their charity and we became donors for several years. We liked how Smile Train helps teach local doctors how to repair clefts instead of just flying in, doing some surgeries, and then heading home.  It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” philosophy.

In 2013, we decided to add a third child to our family via adoption from China. We decided to adopt from China because my husband is an American of Chinese ethnicity.  We thought that a child adopted from China would blend in well with our biracial family. We also knew we wanted to adopt a special needs child.  Although we were open to different types of special needs, we were most comfortable with adopting a child with cleft lip/palate – some of our comfort coming from knowing about Smile Train and your mission.

We were matched by our adoption agency with our daughter Poppy, who lived in Pingliang, Gansu, China.  After we came home with Poppy in June 2014, Smile Train was extremely helpful in providing us with the medical records that they had on her.

Poppy is doing really well now!  She’s been home 6 months and it’s as if she’s always been a part of our family.  She is best friends with her older sister and she adores her older brother.  She’s loving gymnastics class and she enjoys singing and dancing at home.  She loves playing with her (and her siblings’) Legos. She was very excited to dress up as Princess Anna from Frozen for Halloween this year.  She tells everyone that will listen that she was Anna.

In the age of Facebook and social media, we were able to find Poppy’s connection with Smile Train and Love Without Boundaries.  We were also able to connect with the parents of one of Poppy’s best friends in the orphanage (who also had her cleft surgery through Smile Train in Kunming at the same time) through Facebook.  Her friend was adopted by a family in St. Louis.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited my family in Illinois and we were able to make a side-trip to St. Louis to have dinner with her friend and her family.  At first, they were a little unsure of each other, then they took off like no time had passed since they had been together in Pingliang 6 months earlier.

We found it very touching to see that an organization that we learned about more than a decade ago has directly benefitted our daughter.  Thank you Smile Train for helping Poppy and all the children that you affect.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

Xinrui’s Smile is so Bright it Lights Up the Holidays


Beijing, China—Xinrui is a two-year-old girl from Bei Gao Li Village, a rural part of China’s Hebei province. When you see her bright smile today you would never know that she was born with both a cleft lip and palate.

Thanks to the generous support of Smile Train donors and the doctors of Beijing Stomatological Hospital, Xinrui received her free Smile Train cleft lip surgery when she was just three months old and her palate surgery shortly after at 16 months. Because she received cleft surgery so early in life she will never know the teasing or difficulties eating and speaking that so many other children born with clefts face.

Today Xinrui is a cheerful and smart little girl. Although she’s only two years old, she has already become a small leader amongst her friends. Her cleverness has made her a favorite among the adults in her community as well. When little Xinrui visits their houses to play they call it “the happy hour.”

Xinrui lives a happy life with love and care from all of her family and friends.

A Message From Wang Li, Smile Train’s First Patient

Wang Xiao Yu, the son of Smile Train's very first patient, Wang Li, is a healthy baby boy.

Beijing, Chinawe 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