In 2011, Deasy Larasati started as a program associate for the Central Java Region of Indonesia at Smile Train. Smile Train’s staff in Indonesia is faced with unique challenges finding children living with untreated clefts, as there are 260+ million people spread out across the more than 13,000 islands.
Deasy remembers her first years: “I found myself getting more entrenched with Smile Train’s work with every child we reached — it is so gratifying to make a family’s greatest wish come true.” Despite the challenging logistics, necessity is the mother of invention — Deasy and the rest of our Smile Train Indonesia team used ingenuity and hard work to reach thousands of isolated patients.
By 2015, Deasy’s drive to create new smiles resulted in her promotion to Indonesia’s country manager. One of the first things Deasy wanted to address in her new role was cleft stigma, as she found that parental guilt was a major hindrance to patient families seeking help. Deasy commented, “It's difficult for some parents who do not have the proper information about what a cleft is to believe that their child’s cleft is not a punishment. Once they learn that many children are born with clefts and that Smile Train financial assistance is available, they gain hope that their child can live like every other child.”
Another technique Deasy uses to gain a nervous parent’s trust is to make herself available 24/7. “I talk to parents every day to share information. If you look at my social media pages, more than half of my contacts are the family members of children born with clefts,” she said. Deasy talked with one mother on the phone every three days for months before she was comfortable sending her child for cleft surgery.
While a cell phone may be best when talking with parents, Deasy needed a proverbial megaphone to reach the tens of thousands of children still living with untreated clefts in Indonesia. The team’s brilliant solution was setting up partnerships with the Indonesian Army and local police forces — groups with a presence in every corner of the country.
The Indonesian Army and the police are highly respected by Indonesians and their good name lends another level of credence to our cause. When they see a person living with an untreated cleft, they will connect them to the nearest Smile Train partner and often provide transportation and food if they have to travel long distances.
Smile Train Indonesia has nearly doubled the amount of local partner surgeons since Deasy began working in 2011. The local surgeons, with the assistance of thousands of dedicated Indonesians volunteering their time to spread awareness, reached an incredible 8,300+ children in 2017 — proof that when everyone works together, no challenge is too big.
If you would like to help Deasy, and other dedicated local Smile Train staff members just like her around the world, provide forever smiles to children in need, please make a gift today.