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.
Monica Dominguez, Program Manager of Mexico talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.
What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?
I wanted to be at a place where I could help give kids the most wonderful and pure expression of happiness, a smile.
How has your involvement with Smile Train made you look at the power a smile differently?
You take for granted that a smile is part of your life. Working with kids that are not able to smile makes you realize how important it is that I do it on a daily basis.
What keeps you involved in Smile Train?
The fact that desperation, hopelessness and sadness can magically be transformed by smiles, laughs and love. Smiling is so contagious, I want to keep going and spread all over the world.
Bere was born in Hidalgo Mexico with a cleft lip and palate. Bere’s mother, Domitila said that Bere had several cleft related medical problems, but despite them, she was a happy little girl.
When Bere got older she was excited to start her first day of school. However, when she got there the other kids made fun of her and started to call her names. When she returned home after her first day, Bere told her mother she never wanted to go back to school again. Bere became ashamed to talk at school because her schoolmates would come and look at her mouth and stare. So Bere gave up speaking at school altogether, and until her mom would pick her up at the end of the day she would just sit in a chair saying nothing.
Fortunately, Domitila found out about Smile Train, and was relieved to find that they would give Bere free surgery, she could not afford, to fix her cleft lip and palate. After the surgery her mother was so pleased and they both decided they would give school a second chance. A few weeks after the surgery, Bere was back in school and the other children were happy to see her.
Now Bere is doing great, she has many friends, and is much more talkative and outgoing. Her mother says, before Bere’s surgery she would never draw faces with a mouth, but now she loves drawing them and now the mouths always have a smile.
Janta, her husband Dayal, and their five daughters Anjali, Poonam, Komal, Ankita, and Namrata.
Janta Kumari Singh and her husband Dayal are the proud parents of five daughters, four of which were born with congenital cleft lip and palate. The family lives in the urban slums of Mumbai, supported by Dayal’s modest wage working as a security guard. By chance, the Singh family heard that another local cleft patient received help at Smile Train partner Godrej Hospital. Once the family talked to staff members at Godrej, the parents were relieved to hear that the surgery would be free and available for all four daughters that needed it.
Older daughters, Anjali and Komal have both received their cleft lip and palate surgery at Godrej Hospital and are currently going through speech therapy there as well. Younger sisters Ankita and Narmata have both had surgeries in September 2014 but the surgeon said, “it has been a challenge to ensure that the girls are fit for surgery they are all anemic and are often prone to infections.”
Now all of the girls go to school and Poonam, the only sibling without a cleft lip and palate, helps them communicate with other children and their teachers. Even though the family has gone through a lot of tough times, they have surrounded themselves with infectious smiles and laughter.
Janta with her daughters Komal (8 years old) and Ankita (6 years old).
Patan, India—Sonakshi Arvind Kamble is a one-year-old girl from India who was born with a cleft lip. When Sonakshi was born her father, Arvind, was terrified. He said, “I was scared and had never seen this deformity so I was reluctant to hold the child.”
The neighbors told him Sonakshi would never be normal.
While Sonakshi’s parents took her to a local hospital for help. For six months Arvind and his daughter would make the trip to the hospital, but they were never told that cleft was treatable. On one of their trips to the hospital, the taxi driver who was taking them knew of Smile Train and told him that his daughter’s smile could be fixed. But Sonashi’s father, a driver himself, only earns 9,000 Rupees per month, about $150. He was nervous that he would not be able to afford the treatment. After an hour-long journey to Smile Train partner Godrej Memorial Hospital, Sonakshi and her family arrived at the hospital to good news—Smile Train could cover the costs of her surgery for free.
Now Sonakshi, her father, and the entire family are very happy. Her father reports that their neighbors have been treating them much better now that Sonakshi’s cleft has been repaired. Besides commenting on how beautiful is daughter is, Arvind noted that he wants her to become a doctor so she can provide for herself and help others.
Dr. Mughese Amin (center) celebrates his hospital’s 1,000th Smile Train with his staff and lucky patient Abdullah, being held by his father, Abdur Rehman.
Bahawalpur, Pakistan—Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Mughese Amin recently wrote to inform us of his hospital’s 1,000th Smile Train surgery. A Smile Train partner since 2008, Dr. Mughese manages his Smile Train program at Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital, which he founded. He is also an Associate Professor & Head of the Department Plastic Surgery at Quaid E Azam Medical College and Victoria Hospital located in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
Our 1,000th Smile Train patient, one-and-a-half-year-old Abdullah, son of Abdur Rehman, came to Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital after his father saw an advertisement about Smile Train in a newspaper. Abdullah’s father told me that this was his only son after six daughters and that Abdullah is very precious for him and his family. When I met the family I saw that the father of the child also had a cleft lip. This chap had spent a whole of his life with this cleft. I asked him if I could operate on him as well, but he said he was too old now and would come later for his surgery. He was not much interested in his surgery at the time.
Father and son before Abdullah’s surgery. His father, Abdur, will receive cleft surgery shortly.
Abdullah’s father said he is very poor so he could not afford surgery. When I examined Abdullah his father asked me hesitantly what was the fee for surgery. I said, “Nothing. It is free.” He was surprised when I told him this. Very unfortunately the person from his village who brought son and father to my hospital took 3,000 Rupees (about $30 USD) from them claiming it was a doctor fee. I then called that chap and got Abdullah’s father his money back.
Please join everyone here at Smile Train in congratulating Dr. Mughese and his hospital for this huge smilestone!