Smile Train: Full Steam Ahead in Giving Filipino Children Born with Cleft Lips and Palates the Gift of A Smile and a Second Chance At Life
Photo above shows pre- and post-operation photos of 7-year-old Ahmad Lakim, who underwent a free cleft surgery courtesy of Smile Train
Cleft lips and palates are a major problem in developing countries such as the Philippines, where millions of children go through life with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly, and those who are able to attend school are constantly teased and bullied by other children, forcing them to hide in their homes. Unable to finish their schooling and find a job when they are older, these children – and their families – live very difficult lives filled with shame, isolation, pain and heartache.
The problem of clefts in developing countries is an economic problem – not a medical one. The families of these children are too poor to afford to pay for surgery.
The good news is that Smile Train has built a global network of thousands of partner hospitals and participating surgeons who are providing more than 115,000 free surgeries each year for patients in their own communities. Every child with a cleft can be helped with a simple surgery that may take as little as 45 minutes. And Smile Train, the leading cleft charity in the world which has been offering this surgery for free to Filipinos in underserved communities year-round for the past 12 years, aims to reach more patients across the country this year.
“It has been Smile Train’s lifelong commitment to help children born with clefts all over the world, and the Philippines is one of the countries where we hope to make much headway in this undertaking,” said Priscilla Ma, Executive Director, Smile Train. “We estimate that there are 4,500 Filipinos born with a cleft annually, on top of the over 120,000 Filipinos with unrepaired clefts to date.”
Last year, Smile Train performed over 4,400 surgeries nationwide through the help of 50 partner organizations, or an average of 12 cleft-related surgeries daily. Ma was recently in town to meet with some of these partners and, together with Smile Train’s Country Manager for Philippines, Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, firm up plans for reaching out to more indigent patients especially in the far-flung areas of the country.
One of Smile Train’s biggest partner organizations is the Philippine Band of Mercy (PBM), a private, non-stock foundation dedicated to providing free medical and surgical services to underprivileged children born with cleft lip and palate deformities. PBM, based in Quezon City, has taken on over 5,000 surgeries since becoming a Smile Train partner in 2002.
“Smile Train is a pioneer in the progress of cleft care in the Philippines, empowering local institutions and surgeons to work together in providing the life-changing free cleft surgeries to indigent children. We are blessed to have Smile Train as our partner in fulfilling our mission to provide Filipinos with the opportunity to avail of adequate medical aid and the right support, and help them take a step towards a better life,” said Jesus Perez Cardenas, President, Philippine Band of Mercy.
“Through joint efforts with partners like PBM, we are providing children born with clefts with the same opportunities in life as a child born without, brightening smiles throughout the country, and ultimately giving these children a new chance at life,” concluded Ma.
Smile Train offers free surgeries to Filipinos in underserved communities. To find out more about Smile Train and its partners in the nearest location, interested parties may call or send a message to 0917-52-TRAIN (0917-52-87246).
About Smile Train
Smile Train is the leading cleft charity in the world, with over 1,100 partner hospitals and has helped children in over 80 countries. Over the past 12 years, Smile Train has provided over 650,000 free cleft surgeries in different parts of the globe, with its dedicated, local partner surgeons performing more than 300 surgeries a day. With this simple surgery, Smile Train is working to help children smile for the very first time, enabling them to explore, play with other children and go to school without being teased, thus, giving them a second chance at life.