Kimmy Flaviano Power Of A Smile

Kimmy POASKimmy Flaviano, Country Manager, Philippines talks about what the Power Of A Smile means to her.

What first inspired you to work at Smile Train?

When I first heard about Smile Train, I had always worked for corporations and I was hesitant to apply. But I researched Smile Train and when I found a single surgery could change the life of a child forever. How could I say “no”? It was an opportunity to help change the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos with a simple surgery. Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. I found that job at Smile Train!

What do you think the Power Of A Smile is?

A smile can change everything. You could be in a restaurant and if the server doesn’t greet you with a smile, it changes your mood. You see an old friend and you know how she doing by how wide is her smile is. When your month-old baby smiles back at you, it melts your heart, and you know that you are everything in the world to him.

What has the Power of A Smile done for you in your life?

Since working with Smile Train, I have become more appreciative of the little things in life. I’ve learned not to take things for granted. I think about all the hard work our partners do and it warms my heart. I think about how patients travel for days to get to a Smile Train partner. It doesn’t just affect how I do things at Smile Train, but also at home and how I interact with friends and family, and raise my children.

Twin Brothers Receive Life Changing Operations on the Same Day

Twins after

Talisay City, Philippines: Twin brothers Aerald and Aervy are now all smiles thanks to their surgery at the Young Life Foundation.



Nine-month-old twin brothers Aerald & Aervy Nierves are from Talisay City in the Philippines. Both Aerald and Aervy were born with cleft lips but their parents are unemployed and cannot afford
the surgery

The boys were brought to the Young Life Foundation in hopes of receiving cleft lip operations for free. Luckily, Smile Train was there to help and the boys received operations soon after their visit.

Update from the Field: Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano (far right), visits a Smile Train patient this past September. Kimmy recently sent an update regarding Typhoon Haiyan.

Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano (far right), visits a Smile Train patient this past September. Kimmy recently sent an update regarding Typhoon Haiyan.

Manila, PhilippinesThis weekend many parts of the Philippines were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history. Smile Train’s Philippines Country Manager, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano shared this note with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Philippines, including our 60 partner hospitals and 26,000 patients.

As if the 24 storms we experienced this year (plus a major earthquake and war) were not enough…

This week,Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda – our storms are named alphabetically – so we’re now at letter “Y.”) battered nearly half of the country. The “good” thing is that it moved so fast (235 kilometers per hour) that there was not much flooding. But the winds caused much trouble in the provinces it hit. Data gathering is still being done, but, for now, one of the first hit was a place called Tacloban, Leyte.

Tacloban is where Smile Train established a cleft center, through our partner Maharlika Charity Foundation and with generous funding from Dubai Duty Free. There is no internet, electricity, phones, and water in the entire province of Leyte right now, so news is trickling in very slowly. Windows in offices, hospitals and homes shattered due to the strength of the wind. Cars and roofs were literally flying in the air.

Aside from Tacloban, Surigao was also badly hit. We also just established a cleft center in Surigao through Maharlika and Dubai Duty Free. Other locations affected where we have active partners are Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo (these three are still picking up pieces from the 7.2 earthquake that hit a few weeks ago), and Bicol. It is estimated that about one million families are affected.

I have gotten in touch with some of our partners in areas where their mobile phones are now working. Most of them are generally okay, but are very worried about the patients.

Thank you again for checking in on us here in the Philippines – we’re now known all over the world as the place where the strongest typhoon/hurricane/cyclone on the planet in recorded history made landfall (a total of 6 times!). Vietnam is now bracing herself for Typhoon Haiyan, but luckily, it has weakened since it left the Philippines.

To our friends in Vietnam, I hope you and your loved ones will be spared from the typhoon! Please take care and stay safe!

Finding More Than One Way To Help

Madi Bennett (right) and January recently reunited after January's Smile Train surgery. During her volunteer work in the Philippines, Madi found January and another little girl living with unrepaired clefts and connected them to Smile Train.

Madi Bennett (right) and January recently reunited after January’s Smile Train surgery. During her volunteer work in the Philippines, Madi found January and another little girl living with unrepaired clefts and connected them to Smile Train.

Manila, PhilippinesMadi Bennett, a volunteer with Kids International Ministries, writes about her experience with Smile Train in the Philippines.

I started coming to the Philippines with my family when I was four and have loved it ever since. I decided to take my first semester off of college and spend that time serving God by helping impoverished children in the Philippines. One of my projects while I am here is Kids International Ministries’ feeding program. We go out into the poorest communities of Manila and feed children two times a week, Monday through Friday. We serve protein enriched rice, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals. While distributing meals, our group also provides vitamins, deworming medication, and basic medical care.

Our feeding program is what started it all with Smile Train. When I was in the Philippines in March of 2013, I came across two girls, Althea and January. They both had cleft lips. I took a few pictures of each girl and kept them in mind. When I got back home from my trip I started to research cleft palates and cleft lips. I came across Smile Train and decided to try and contact them. I expected the process of getting the girls surgery to take weeks if not months, but it didn’t! Within 48 hours of emailing Smile Train, we were put in contact with Drs. Edmund Mercado and Jennifer Deoduco-Mercado in the Philippines and had Althea and January scheduled for appointments. Both girls went in for check-ups just a few days afterwards and the next week Althea had her surgery. January had a cold so they had to wait another week to do surgery. It is amazing how fast the process went. It was absolutely a ‘God moment’ that makes you take a step back and say, “WOW!”

This past week I got the chance to meet up with both of the girls to see their new smiles. It was so exciting to see them. Althea was very shy and wouldn’t say much, but the look on her mom’s face said it all. You could feel how thankful they were for the life-changing surgery. I met January the next day and we took pictures and talked for a while. She had an appointment on Monday because she needs a second surgery to correct her cleft palate.

Since these first two girls, our organization has been on the lookout for other children with cleft lips and/or palates and have been able to refer and help more children through this process. Smile Train is truly a blessing to the world! They help so many people and it is amazing to experience it all firsthand. Thank you Smile Train for changing the lives of these little children.

You can read more about Madi’s work in the Philippines on her blog:

Althea before and after her Smile Train surgery.

Althea before and after her Smile Train surgery

Althea (above) and January before and after their Smile Train surgeries.

January before and after her Smile Train surgery.

Paying It Forward: Angieleca’s Story

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca is now a nurse helping others with cleft

Quezon City, PhilippinesThe story below was submitted by former Smile Train patient Angieleca Hayahay. When she was young, she had her cleft repaired by Philippine Band of Mercy (PBM). Becoming a Smile Train partner in 2002, PBM has gone on to provide over 10,500 cleft surgeries to children across the Philippines. While Angieleca’s first surgeries for her cleft lip and cleft palate were done before 2002, all of her follow–up care was provided by PBM’s Smile Train Program.

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca before her free cleft palate surgery

When I was three months old, our neighbor saw me cuddled by my mother while being put to sleep and she told my mother to take me to Philippine Band of Mercy, a foundation helping poor children with cleft deformities. I was then brought right away to PBM and went for assessment, medical evaluation and laboratory for the first intended surgery on my cleft lip. At nine months, I successfully passed the laboratory exams and had my cleft lip surgery and then, at age two, surgery to repair my cleft palate. I continued to have care for my cleft under the Smile Train Treatment Grant given to PBM. Our family is very grateful that there are organizations that help poor people like me get free medical treatment.

I’m the eldest daughter of Sergio and Clarita Hayahay. We live in a simple house together with my two siblings. My father is an ordinary government employee in the Department of Public Works & Highways. My mother is a simple housewife who takes care of the house and us children. I’m the only one in the family with a cleft lip & palate anomaly, although my mother’s eldest sister has the same cleft deformity like mine. With God’s divine mercy and hard work of my parents, I finished my nursing course and became a registered nurse on 2009.

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca studying to be a nurse, she now works at partner hospital Philippine Band of Mercy

At present, I’m working with Philippine Band of Mercy as a staff nurse. I’m so thankful to be part of the organization that helped me and gave me the opportunity of employment. I really love to help and to give inspiration to parents and patients suffering from cleft. I want to be an effective encourager and share the experiences I went through life due to my cleft — I want to enlighten the minds of parents and especially the patients to keep pursuing their life to be normal.

In most cases people discriminate and judge anybody with facial deformities. I know the hardships and painful feelings of being discriminated by others just because of a different physical appearance. I experienced it several times. When I was studying, I applied for work in a call center company to help my parents in financing my studies. The examiner came to me while I was taking the exam and told me that the company had a protocol not to hire personnel with cleft deformity like me, even though I had surgery to fix it. I felt so depressed when I heard it – all I wanted was to have a part–time job to help my parents sustain my school expenses. Most of the time, I experienced being bullied in the community I grew up. I studied hard to excel and to show that I’m not different. I’m like everyone else. I’m a normal person that just happened to be born with cleft.

Now, I enjoy life and I’m more confident.

We wish Angieleca all the best and send our gratitude as she continues to help Smile Train patients throughout the Philippines.

A Smile for All Seasons

Smile Train patient Erica and her Mom celebrate a year after her surgery

Southern Mindanao, Philippines
Erica Palomo was born on October 14th, 2009. Her mother Ana and her father Ramon were overjoyed at the birth of their little girl, but their joy quickly turned into fear once they saw her face. Little Erica was born with a severe cleft lip.

Ana and Ramon could not understand why their daughter was born this way, as they had never seen anyone with a cleft in their poor village. Their hearts were broken knowing that they would not be able to provide Erica with the surgery she so desperately needed. Ana was unemployed and Ramon was lucky to get occasional work in construction. With no source of income and a newborn in tow, Ana and Ramon were forced to move their young family in with Ana’s parents and resign themselves to the fact that their precious baby would never be helped. Shortly thereafter, unable to bear the stigma of having a child with a cleft, Ramon left the family.

Time went by, but Ana silently held out a small bit of hope that one day she would be able to help Erica live a normal life. That small bit of hope went a long way with a big twist of fate. A new neighbor that worked at a nearby hospital moved next door to Ana and her family. The neighbor immediately noticed Erica’s cleft and told Ana about the hospital’s partnership with Smile Train. Erica would be able to receive cleft surgery, free of charge. Without hesitation, Ana brought her daughter to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for evaluation and to schedule her surgery. The long wait for help was finally over.

Smile Train patient Erica Palomo before and after free cleft lip surgery

This Christmas, more than a year after her surgery, 3-year-old Erica will happily celebrate her smile with her family. Erica is not only beautiful, but her confidence has been boosted. She now loves playing with other children, instead of shyly hiding in a corner. Ana explained sweetly,

After the surgery you can catch Erica glancing at herself in the mirror and touching her upper lips while smiling.”

Ana and her family are so grateful during this holiday season and wish that Smile Train can continue to share the same miracle with other children with clefts around the world. Free cleft surgery is the best gift these children can receive.

Smile Train’s 750,000th Surgery – Jhoanna Galut

Quezon City, PhilippinesYesterday, Smile Train announced our 750,000th free cleft surgery since our founding in 1999. Jhoanna Galut was chosen to represent this amazing “smilestone.” This is her story.

Smile Train's 750,000th Patient Jhoanna After Surgery

As Jhoanna Galut began to approach her 6th birthday, she had little to celebrate. The 4th of 6 children born to a poor family living off $2 a day, Jhoanna suffered from a unilateral cleft lip as well as asthma. Her asthma turned out to be almost as much of a curse as her cleft lip.

Jhoanna’ asthma and very thin frame caused her to fail to pass the medical examination during a free cleft surgery camp organized by an army unit. The cancellation of her surgery at the camp, sent her family into despair. Things only got worse when she got older and local kids began to make fun of her cleft. Perhaps saddest of all, it wasn’t just school kids who made fun of Jhoanna — her mother frequently got into fights with her neighbors over Jhoanna’s cleft.

One day, Jhoanna’s mother brought her youngest child to the hospital for a check up and found literature about Smile Train’s free cleft surgery program at Philippine Band of Mercy. Her hope returned, and when they arrived home, they packed their backs immediately.

Jhoanna had grown strong enough to pass the medical examination and finally received free cleft lip surgery at the hands of Dr. Gilbert Esquejo of Philippine Band of Mercy. With her bright new smile, Jhoana is anxiously looking forward to school and hopes to one day become a teacher.