Smile Train’s New York Headquarters was filled to capacity last night for a panel discussion with Smile Train's international programs staff. The annual event, now in its fourth year, is increasingly popular with local donors.
“There’s nothing more impactful for donors than going into the field and seeing what your support does,” shared Senior Director of Community Fundraising, Adina Lescher. “But since that’s not possible for most people, this event is the next best thing. Hearing firsthand about the challenges and opportunities that exist in this work is a unique opportunity that we’ve found resonates with our supporters.”
Erin Stieber, Senior Vice President, Programs was the moderator for the event. She started with a question to Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Area Director, South East Asia about how geography affects bringing care to her region. Kimmy said, “Both the Philippines and Indonesia are made up of thousands of islands and each is unique and at a different stage of development. Some have hospitals, and some don’t, so logistics are a key factor in our ability to provide care. Our work here is only possible thorough partnerships with local organizations. In Indonesia for example, we partner with local armed forces and police who help with transportation and patient identification.”
Next, Erin asked Area Director, South America, Mariane Goes about the importance and growth of comprehensive cleft care in the Americas. “Speech, nutrition, psychological, and orthodontic services are not luxuries; each is essential for babies to live a full, healthy, and happy life,” Mariane responded. “We know how important each of these services are and we’ve seen their transformative impacts. Our challenge now is to scale them and train as many cleft care specialists as possible. One way we are doing that is through technology. This year we had a pilot program for online learning with speech specialists across the Americas and found the trainings were effective while also providing significant cost savings.”
Erin then asked Mamta Carrol, Vice President & Regional Director, Asia about her team’s efforts to roll out early diagnosis for mothers in India. “When mothers know they are having a baby with a cleft, our partners can educate and prepare them for what to expect,” she said. “Teaching mothers how to feed their baby is paramount because the cleft surgeries can’t happen if the baby is underweight or malnourished. We are rolling out these early education programs now and we hope they will be scalable to other regions.”
Next Erin asked Jane Ngige, Program Director, East Africa how her team addresses stigma and misconceptions. Jane said, “It is all about education, and we do that in many ways. We’ve partnered with, and trained, local community leaders and health organizations to help amplify our message that cleft is treatable and is not caused by any supernatural means. Social media has helped spread that message as well. But our most powerful advocates in addressing stigma are every one of our patients who are no longer hiding in their homes, but out in the community educating their friends, family, and neighbors.”
As the night came to an end, Erin asked the panel to share a favorite story with the crowd. Panelists gave updates that brought laughs and tears, but each had the common thread of lives totally changed forever.
Smile Train would like to thank everyone who attended. Check out the full discussion on Facebook Live.
If you would like to help us provide smiles to our programs around the world, please make a gift today.