The following was written by Smile Train Student Ambassador Daniel Chen about a cleft-awareness event he conducted for his fellow National Honor Society members at Westville High School.
During the past school year, I signed up to become a Smile Train Student Ambassador in order to gain insight into how nonprofit organizations function and how students can make an impact in a lifechanging cause. At the Student Ambassador Conference in NYC, I had the opportunity to meet other high school students from across the country who are equally passionate about making a difference, and we shared ideas that inspired me to organize an event at my school.
I knew that my high school’s National Honor Society (NHS) chapter selected a project every month that supports a nonprofit organization. So, at the next planning meeting, I proposed that our nearly 100 NHS members make get-well cards for Smile Train patients recovering from their free cleft surgeries. Thankfully, everyone got behind the project, and it was added to the calendar.
The idea of creating get-well cards wasn’t tied directly to raising funds, but I believe it’s important first to educate about cleft lip and palate so that people can understand how a surgery can change a child’s life forever. This first event would act as an introduction to Smile Train and raise awareness of the many children with untreated clefts around the world.
Our NHS advisor found the raw materials for creating the get-well cards, and the NHS board members helped me set up the room — everything was ready. Then, thankfully, the room filled with people eager to contribute to making the cards. While producing the cards was fairly easy, I know that the psychological health of these children is important, and so, when they see the cards, I hope it helps their recovery in some small way.
This project gave me a new understanding of the power of raising awareness. People need to learn what a cleft is before they can tell others about it and possibly turn into advocates.
There’s a deep satisfaction in knowing that I’m a small part of Smile Train’s efforts. It’s beautiful that these children are able to receive the help they need through a medical procedure that can completely flip a child’s outlook on life. It’s a compelling reason for me to want to become involved in medicine as well.