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.

Coping With My Daughter’s Cleft

Tezi BandA

Dehradun, India – Manoj Sagar, whose daughter, Tezi, was born with cleft lip and palate, shares his story of how he initially reacted to his daughter’s cleft, and how Smile Train was able to help him find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

My wife did not see the child, Tezi, immediately after birth as she was exhausted by labor. I was the first person in the family to see that my child was born with a deformity. I was immediately shocked, overwhelmed, and terrified. My hands and feet trembled and my throat became parched. I felt that God had cursed me by giving me such a monstrous child. I did not know what to do.

I was so overcome with sorrow that even when a local doctor informed me about the Himalayan Institute where Smile Train could fix Tezi’s cleft for free I was still in denial that the cleft could be cured. It wasn’t until I saw the transformation with my own eyes through similar patients who underwent surgery at the Himalayan Institute that I had a slight change of heart.

We are lucky because we live only a few minutes from the hospital, so I was able to take Tezi there without any difficulty. After a quick 45-minute surgery that was free of charge I was completely relieved to see my daughter turn from a monstrous child into an angel. Now that the swelling from the surgery has gone down, no one can say that she has ever had a facial deformity. Thanks to Smile Train my darling girl is free to lead a normal life full of self-esteem.

Mohd Returns Home

Little Mohd at home with his mother (Mummy) and father.

Little Mohd happy at home with his mother (Mummy) and father.

Mohd before

Mohd before

Jodhpur, India–Little Mohd Waris was brought to Raj Dadiji Hospital in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India with a bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. The hospital staff noticed that Mohd was accompanied by an older woman and not his parents, who would presumably be much younger. Curious, they asked the woman about the boy’s parents and found out that Mohd’s mother was ill-treated by her in-laws because her child was born with a cleft. Due to the pressure from her husband’s family, Mohd’s mother left him with the older woman, his maternal grandmother.

His 55-year-old grandmother had only one thing to say to the Smile Train doctors at Raj Dadiji Hospital, “Make my child look like a healthy normal human being so that he can live with his mother.”

Mohd and his grandmother after surgery.
Mohd and his grandmother after surgery.

The Smile Train team provided Mohd with free cleft surgery and the day after, Mohd’s grandmother visited the hospital with his mother. Mohd’s mothered praised the surgeons, staff, and Smile Train and said, “Now, I can take my child with me.”

The young boy now lives happily with his mother and father, his paternal family accepting him with open arms.

The Kindness of Strangers

Smile Train patients, brothers Winner Ramadhan and Achmad Alwi before and after free cleft lip surgery

Brothers Winner Ramadhan (top) and Achmad Alwi (bottom) before and immediately after free cleft lip surgery

Sulawesi, Indonesia — anyone who has ever been helped by a complete stranger knows just how much that kindness can impact their lives, but few get the chance to repay those who helped them. David Cogswell, a Princeton Fellow teaching at the Anglo-Chinese Junior College in Singapore, recently traveled to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where he met a poor, local English teacher and farmer named Natsir.

“Natsir showed genuine compassion and hospitality to my friend and me, opening up his home to us, introducing us to his family, and sharing what little food he had to make us feel welcome as his guests. Yet I was deeply affected when I saw his youngest son’s cleft, given the lack of cost-effective medical care in the region.”

When he returned, David reached out to his mother, a speech pathologist in the U.S., to see if she knew where to find help. She contacted Smile Train Regional Director Simon Tobing and Program Manager Deasy Lasarati who were able to track down Natsir soon after. To their surprise, both of Natsir’s sons had cleft lips. On January 14th, Winner Ramadhan and his older brother Achmad Alwi received free surgery under skilled surgeon Dr. Senja Adianto. They’ll soon both be smiling thanks to Smile Train donors, staff, David, his mother, and their father’s kindness. This wonderful news will carry further as David is spreading the word about Smile Train’s programs to his network of teachers in Southeast Asia to reach even more children.


We just received this thank you note from Achmad Alwi and had to share it.

Smile Train patient Achmad Alwi sends his thanks for his free cleft surgery

On behalf of everyone in the Smile Train family, you’re more than welcome Achmad. We couldn’t be happier for you and Winner!

Sorrow, Courage, and Hope: Wina Anugrah

On November 30th, Smile Train officially announced surpassing 700,000 surgeries. Seven-month-old Wina Anugrah was selected as a representative of this amazing “smilestone.” This is her story.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah before free cleft lip sugery

Jakarata, Indonesia — Despite hard living conditions, Willem and Asima were ecstatic when Asima became pregnant with their second child. They began to put aside the little money they could spare in anticipation of their new daughter’s arrival. However, during the second month of pregnancy, their joy turned to despair, frustration, and fear when Willem was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.

The money they had saved for Wina’s birth had to be used alongside loans from family, friends, and his employer for Willem’s cancer treatment. As his cancer worsened, Willem weakened and had to quit his job. Asima explained to our partner hospital, “my entire family was so sad. My husband was too weak to do anything and I had to open a little market in front of our house to try to pay for food and his care.” After nine months, Asima had still not given birth and the doctor decided she would need to undergo a Caesarean section.

“When my husband saw Wina, he cried. He thought it was his fault because he had a tumor.”

Willem was no longer strong enough to go to the hospital and could not be by his wife during her surgery — when Wina was born with a cleft lip and palate. “When my husband saw Wina, he cried. He thought it was his fault because he had a tumor.” They tried to remain strong and push forward with the help of their extended family, but three months after Wina was born, Willem passed away.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah after free cleft lip surgery

With the loss of her husband, Asima’s sorrow returned ten fold as her daughters would grow up without their father and Wina would have one less loving parent to help her in a world that looked down upon her for her birth defect. This past fall, a social worker volunteering for Smile Train partner Bandung CLP-Center in Bandung Santosa Hospital arrived at Asima’s door. Wina was enrolled at the hospital and recently underwent free cleft lip surgery and is scheduled for palate surgery when she is a few months older.

Smile Train patient Wina Anugrah and her Mom, Asima after surgery

Sadly, Wina will grow up without her father, but thanks to our partner hospital, she has a new smile and will not have to face a life of torment and ridicule for how she was born. For Asima, the world was finally starting to lighten again, “Thanks to Jesus Christ for this miracle and to Bandung CLP-Center and Santosa Hospital and the team who helped my daughter. Thanks to Smile Train donors and Dr. Koeswara Amoes who performed Wina’s surgery. I hope my husband can see our beautiful daughter in Heaven and can feel this happiness too.”

The Need for a Permanent Presence

Smile Train patient HAnef Abdul Samad before free cleft lip surgeryMarikina City, Philippines — When Hanef Abdul Samad was born with a cleft lip or “bingot,” his mother saved as much money as she could to travel nearly 500 miles from the conflict-affected island of Mindanao to Manila to find help. She left her home, her family, and everything she had ever known for the slim chance that her son’s cleft lip could somehow be fixed. Shortly after they arrived in Manila, Hanef was lucky to be screened and scheduled for free cleft surgery by a medical mission group from the USA. All of her hopes had come true. Until the medical mission group suffered from internal problems and Hanef’s surgery was among those cancelled.

Hanef and many more who had been scheduled for surgery would not receive it as the mission group had to leave shortly after they corrected the problems that stalled their good work. Angry at the twists of fate that continually kept her son from a normal life, dejected and forlorn, Hanef’s mother continued on her quest to help her son with an even heavier heart. Unable to find work and watch her son, she reached out to a local charitable organization to help her get on her feet. The organization quickly referred her to a relatively new Smile Train partner, Marikina St. Vincent Hospital. Fearing further disappointment, she was very hesitant to bring Hanef in, but realized that for Hanef, she could never abandon hope.

Smile Train patient HAnef Abdul Samad after free cleft lip surgery

Within days, Hanef received free cleft surgery under skilled surgeon Dr. Edmundo Mercado and a second chance at life. His mother was relieved of her fears and disappointment and with the help of a Smile Train Smile Grant and the local charity, they were able to begin the long journey home: promising to spread the word about Smile Train.

Marikina St. Vincent Hospital Smile Train cleft patients and staff

Having a permanent, local presence where partner hospitals can provide surgery year-round holds Smile Train to our promise to never turn a child away and ensures that temporary setbacks and timetables will not result in cancelled surgeries and lost hope.

A New Life for an Infant Abandoned at Birth

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – A nurse at Cho Ray Hospital happily carried newborn Hong Binh An from the maternity ward to the room where his parents were staying, only to find it empty. The baby’s parents were gone along with all of their belongings as if they had never been there. She never knew why they abandoned their newborn son at the hospital, whether they feared that Binh An’s cleft was an evil omen or were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to take care of him; only that they were gone and the baby she held in her hands had no home to go to because of his cleft lip.Orphan cleft lip patient with staff before surgery

Luckily, the hospital’s compassionate staff took it upon themselves to take care of Hong Binh An at the maternity ward until he was old enough to be taken to a nearby orphanage. Hong Binh An’s curiosity and playfulness quickly won the hearts of everyone at the orphanage. At 8 months old, he was finally strong enough for surgery and two of the orphanage’s staff brought Binh An to Smile Train partner hospital Benh Vien Nhi Dong II.

Cleft lip patient after sugeryOn July 4, 2011, Binh An received free cleft lip surgery under the skilled hands of Dr. Luu Dinh Tru. After a few days of recovery, Binh An was discharged to the orphanage, his new smile matching his curious and outgoing personality. Thanks to Smile Train donors and our local partner hospital, he has been given a second chance at a normal life. The staff at the orphanage know that with his new smile, Binh An will soon be adopted by a loving family.