A Long Awaited Smile

Blog post 7.10.2014

Multan, Pakistan—Imagine providing for a family of three living on under seven dollars a day. Unfortunately, this is reality for young Muhammad Zaeem and his family. Muhammad is an only child living with his mother and father in a ‘kachi abadi’ in Pakistan. A ‘kachi abadi’ is an urban settlement in which impoverished people come together to create a makeshift community in order to support each other. Many of the people in these communities cannot read and do not have an adequate supply of resources.

Where Muhammad lives, superstition prevails over science. It is believed that children with a cleft lip are the result of carelessness on the mother’s behalf who, during pregnancy, cut something with a sharp edged knife during an eclipse. While a solution to Muhammad’s cleft was uncertain, his father became hopeful when he saw a Smile Train advertisement on the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital’s billboard.

Muhammad’s parents brought him to see Dr. Amir Hanif at the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital in September 2013. On his first visit Muhammad’s weight and hemoglobin levels were too low to undergo surgery. Dr. Hanif decided to wait four months so Muhammad could become stronger and properly nourished. Muhammad and his parents returned to the hospital in February 2014 and left three days later with Muhammad’s new smile.

The team from the Bakhtawar Amin Hospital visited Muhammad and his family two months later to find great news. Muhammad was living a normal, happy life and was accepted within his community. The family was cheerful and looking forward to the future.

Thankyou Smile Train

A Brother’s Love

Naveed Khan, 14, before and after his Smile Train surgery in Pakistan. Naveed deferred his chance for cleft surgery to his sister when a generous landlord offered to help the young boy. Luckily, the family recently found Smile Train and now both siblings have the opportunity to smile.

Naveed Khan, 14, before and after his Smile Train surgery in Pakistan. Naveed deferred his chance for cleft surgery to his sister when a generous landlord offered to help the young boy. Luckily, the family found Smile Train so that both siblings have the opportunity to smile.

Peshawar, Pakistan—Fourteen-year-old Naveed Khan just may be the world’s best brother.

One of two siblings born with cleft, it seemed certain that Naveed and his sister would live the rest of their years without receiving the cleft repair surgeries they needed. The children’s parents, family members, and neighbors knew nothing about clefts. To them it was a curse from God. Even if the family had known that a simple surgery could help the brother and sister, there was no money to provide it.

The siblings were never sent to school and had no friends. Naveed’s sister spent her time in the home helping her mother with cleaning, sweeping, and chores in the kitchen, while Naveed went to work in the fields with his father. They secretly prayed for a miracle.

Soon other villagers became aware of the children’s clefts. Word that the son of a farmhand had an unrepaired cleft lip reached the villagers’ landlord. He quickly offered to sponsor Naveed’s cleft surgery.

Both Naveed and his sister now have their clefts repaired.

Both Naveed and his sister now have their clefts repaired.

Naveed was excited to hear that there was a cure for his misery. Although elated by the words of hope from the landlord, Naveed was also anxious. He told the landlord about his sister and asked if she too could receive surgery. With a heavy heart, the landlord sadly told Naveed and his father that he could not afford to pay for both surgeries.

Naveed decided to sacrifice for his opportunity so that his sister could receive the life-changing surgery first. Naveed told his father that the surgery would more positively impact her life—she could leave the house and eventually get married. Naveed’s sister had the surgery done while his cleft was left unrepaired. Although he was very happy for his sister, Naveed now knew that a smiling life was just one surgery away, but he could not have it.

Last month the family found Smile Train and its free cleft surgery program at Al-Shifa Health Care Center. They wasted no time and rushed to the clinic. Naveed got his free Smile Train surgery done last week and his joy after surgery could not be expressed in words. He is now a happy boy wearing a big smile rather than the scarf he used to cover his face.

In the words of his father, “Naveed got the payback and reward for the sacrifice he made for his sister.”

Cleft Surgery Finds Akhtar

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Mohammed Akhtar, left, waves good bye with his father and brothers to the staff from Smile Train partner hospital Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital after their visit to his home.

Multan, Pakistan—Mohammad Akhtar is a 15-year-old boy who grew up with both a cleft lip and palate. His family lives in a remote area of Pakistan known as Jungle Maryala. This area so isolated that in order to get to the nearest city, Multan, 22 kilometers away, one must either travel by foot or animal-pulled carts—there are no proper roads available to get there.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.

Mohammad Akhtar, 15, before his cleft lip and palate surgery.


Both Aktar’s mother and father are illiterate and had very little awareness about the treatment of cleft lip and palate. Furthermore, as a carpenter, Akhtar’s father was barely able to provide for his wife and eight children, with Akhtar being the only born with a cleft. Due to the family’s poverty, his parents were helpless to address their son’s cleft lip and palate. Akhtar’s mother said that she and her husband worried about Akhtar so much that “they gave him more attention than the other siblings because all others were leading a normal and healthy life.”

One day, a neighbor of Akhtar’s, who often visited Multan, read a billboard advertising Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital’s Smile Train program, providing free cleft lip and palate surgery to patients in need. The hospital was also located in Multan. When he returned home, the neighbor immediately told Akhtar’s father about the treatment. While he was overjoyed to hear about the free treatment as he could not bear the expense of surgery himself, unfortunately Akhtar’s father could also not afford the expense of travel to the hospital. His neighbor then offered provide the father with the carriage he usually used to visit the city.

Akhtar, along with his parents, arrived at the hospital on June 10, 2013 and were welcomed warmly by the staff of the hospital. After the initial checkup, Akhtar was scheduled for surgery two days later. After a successful cleft lip and palate surgery by Dr. Amir Hanif, Akhtar and was discharged on June 15th and returned home.

The team at Bakhtawar Amin visited Akhtar and his family at his home in Jungle Maryala to see Akhtar’s progress since the surgery. His father commented, “Akhtar, having cleft lip and palate problems, was living a very difficult life with an inferiority complex because not only his peer group, but also his siblings, made fun of him.”

The parents were very happy and were thankful to Smile Train as well as Bakhtawar Amin for helping their son when they could not.

Smile Train partner Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital celebrates 1,000th cleft surgery

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.

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, PakistanSmile 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.

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!

Smile Train Partner Yemen Smile Pushes On Despite Crisis, Offers Hope

Sana’a, Yemen — Smile Train partner Yemen Smile is facing what is perhaps the greatest challenge any Smile Train partner has faced. Our remarkable surgeon, Dr. Bona Lotha and his team, predominantly work in the capital of Sana’a, but also travel throughout the Arab world’s poorest country to host surgical cleft camps. Previously, we reported on Dr. Lotha’s team and their amazing ingenuity, as the turmoil in Yemen has deepened, the team has heroically continued to press on in ever worsening conditions.

Dr. Lotha and his anesthesiologist, Wahed, recently traveled back to the city of Yarim to provide more free cleft surgeries to children and sent us this email upon their return:

Just had a miraculous escape from our cleft camp this week in Yarim hospital where we operated on 12 cleft kids and during our time there a battle suddenly broke out between the rogue military units in Sana’a. We tried to rush back home but all roads to Sana’a were closed by the army and we got stuck in Yarim til yesterday night; this morning they had a 12 hour ceasefire and the army allowed the two of us to reach Sana’a by special security permission.

There is unrest all across Yemen.

We managed to complete till now a total number of 456 cleft surgeries(since Jan 2010) and will continue. The Jibla camp is postponed for now..work to resume when things calm down…only 12 kids could be operated over 3 days because of the crisis…

We are happy to be alive and our families are well and safe.”

Our deepest thanks and concerns to Dr. Lotha, Wahed, and the rest of his team for their incredible work and providing smiles and hope during such difficult times. Please keep our partners, patients, and their families, especially those whose countries are filled with political strife and turmoil, in your thoughts and prayers.