January Social Post of the Month

Mariam before and after her recent Smile Train surgery.

Mariam before and after her recent Smile Train surgery.

Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah.

Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah.


Sunyani, GhanaDr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah a Smile Train partner surgeon at the Nationwide Cleft Foundation in Ghana post the following story to our Smile Train Facebook Page recently his most recent patient, Mariam.

This is a cleft patient I found on my New Year’s trip to Nkoranza North District in Ghana. While in Busunyaa, the capital of Nkoranza North District, I was called by a community health nurse who had heard me speak about cleft on the radio. She had found a child born with a cleft lip. Lo and behold when I went to examine the child I found this nice girl named Mariam. I immediately transported her and her mum to Sunyani Regional Hospital, where I run my Smile Train program. She was admitted on January 6th, operated on January 7th, and discharged home January 8th. She will come for follow up on the 15th of this month.

A New Life Ahead

Smile Train patient Kwame Antwi in the arms of his grandmother after free cleft lip surgery at our partner Regional Hospital Sunyani in Ghana

Sunyani, GhanaSmile Train partner surgeon Dr Kofi Amponsah of Regional Hospital Sunyani sent us this touching account of one of his patients, two-year-old Kwame Antwi. Kwame’s life started on a sad note, but due to the care he received at Regional Hospial Sunyani, a Smile Train partner since 2008, he has a new life ahead. Our deepest thanks to Dr. Amponsah, his team, and our supporters for changing this little boy’s life forever.

This cleft child’s mother died while she was giving birth to him. What worsen[ed] his plight was [his] cleft lip so he was tagged as an outcast…without empathy from his grandmother this child would have been living without a smile on his face. But Thanks to Smile Train and Regional Hospital Sunyani, the cleft has been repaired and the child’s and grandmother’s faces are full of smile when they were discharged home on last Monday March, 18th 2013.

— Dr. Kofi Amponsah

Smile Train patient Kwame Antwi after free cleft surgery


Smile Train Sponsored PAACLIP Conference in Africa

Kumasi, Ghana – Last week, nearly 300 cleft care providers from across Africa met to exchange ideas and learn about the latest in cleft care at the 4th Annual Pan African Association of Cleft Lip & Palate (PAACLIP) Scientific Conference. With the support of Smile Train and the dream of an association of local African partners working together to provide and improve quality cleft care throughout the continent, PAACLIP was started in 2007 with the help of Smile Train Medical Advisory Board member and world-renowned speech pathologist Dr. Linda D’Antonio.

Smile Train PAACLIP Conference in AfricaIn developing countries, one of the hardest tasks for Smile Train partners is combating the myths and superstitions that surround cleft lips and palates: proper awareness is even hard in the U.S. where July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness month. Creating proper awareness and discrediting superstitions has proven especially difficult in remote parts of Africa that have suffered from years and even decades of conflict. Luckily, through the dedicated efforts of Smile Train and PAACLIP members, awareness that clefts are repairable birth defects, not evil omens or curses from God, is on the rise and we are seeing more and more patients arrive at Smile Train partner hospitals each year.

PAACLIP Smile Train Conference Breakout SessionThe conference focused on strategies and opportunities to increase access to cleft lip and palate surgery and related services in Africa. As a whole, Africa has a shortage of qualified surgeons to provide cleft lip and palate surgery, placing innovative strategies for increasing the reach of current Smile Train partners and comprehensive training for new partners at the top of Smile Train’s priorities in Africa. PAACLIP has proven to be a fundamental building block to Smile Train’s expansion in Africa with a strong dedication to increased sustainability.

Let us solve African problems with us Africans.”

– Dr. Asrat Mengiste, newly appointed President of PAACLIP

Highlights of the conference include lectures from Smile Train Medical Advisory Board members Dr. Ethylin Wang Jabs on genetics and Dr. E. Heidi Jerome on anesthesia as well as Smile Train partners Dr. Adebola Adetokunbo (Nigeria), Dr. Jyotsna Murthy (India), and Dr. Roopa Nagarajan (India). Numerous Smile Train partners, hospital administrators, and leading professionals in the region presented best practices in follow up care in rural areas, delivery of speech services, outreach programs, and cleft awareness and community mobilization programs. The PAACLIP conference was a resounding success and was capped off by a tribute to Dr. D’Antonio for her efforts as well as the announcement of the new PAACLIP leadership, all of whom are Smile Train partners:

PAACLIP and Smile Train leadersDr. Asrat Mengiste – President (Ethiopia and Kenya)
Dr. Pius Agbernoku – Vice President (Ghana)
Dr. Meshach Onguti – Secretary General (Kenya)
Dr. Ashraf Emarah – Assistant Secretary General (Kenya)
Dr. Rose Alenyo – Treasurer (Uganda)
Dr. Peter Olaitan – Financial Secretary (Nigeria)
Dr. Edward Wayi – East African Representative (Tanzania)
Dr. Adebola Adetokunbo – West African Representative (Nigeria)
Dr. Saraiva Simao – South African Representative (Mozambique)
Dr. Emmanuel Crezoit – Francophone Representative
(Cote D’Ivoire)