The Smile Train. A Gift of Love and Laughter.

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I remember when my first child was born. It was a Sunday evening in October, and because the staff that night was short handed there were only two nurses on the floor, and one doctor on call.  For the sake of brevity I’ll spare you all but one of the details of that night. My repeated requests for somebody to come to our room and help were ignored because the “professionals” knew that it just couldn’t be happening so quickly. Even a childbirth noob like me knew what a head popping out of that magical place meant, time for action!

I ended up catching my own daughter as she launched herself into this new place of being and straight into my heart. The nurses showed up several minutes later with bemused looks, and I remember one said loudly, “Holy Shit! You weren’t kidding!” The usual frenzy of delivery room antics followed, and once completed I spent every minute of the next 24 hours either holding or staring at this amazing new perfect little person as I was so immediately and completely in love. I knew instantly that I would do anything for her. No matter the cost, no matter the risks, I was going to give her a good life. I was going to protect her. I’m sure these are the thoughts of all new Fathers, and those of us blessed to have been born in developed countries have a damn good shot at making those dreams a reality. But suppose your child isn’t born “perfect”, and that “imperfection” will lead to a lifetime of isolation and cultural shame for your child unless corrected. You have no resources, none.

Now what?

In many parts of the world a very common birth defect can lead to a lifetime of heartache and sadness.

A cleft lip and palate in some of these countries carries a social stigma that is hard to understand here in the west, but in many countries children born with this are ostracized, humiliated, and sometimes just abandoned.

Many aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job, they face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. All because of something that is easily corrected, if you can afford it.

Imagine the pain a parent must feel when they just can’t provide their child a life they deserve because they are poor.

I want to introduce you to a charity I found that travels the world giving these children not only a new smile, but a new life. It’s called The Smile Train..


It just might be the most effective, impactful donation to a charity

you ever make. 100% of your donation will go towards programs that help children, 0% will go to overhead.

The free cleft surgery your donation will help provide, is a true, modern-day medical miracle: it costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes. That’s all it takes to give a desperate child not just a new smile, but a new life. When you see the impact your donation has, you’ll end up smiling too.

In Cambodia, they call a child with a cleft a “Cheb.” Cheb can mean a lot of things, all of them bad: “hole,” “mistake,” “freak,” “ugly,” and “loser.”

Six year old Morng Taing Pilot and his family had given up all hope of ever correcting Morng’s cleft But one day, his family heard a report on the radio of a special program that offered free surgery to poor Cambodian children with clefts. It seemed too good to be true, and the clinic was 26 miles away, a two day walk at least. But Morng and his father decided it was worth taking a chance, and after a long journey, they made it to the National Pediatric Hospital in the Kandal Province of the Kingdom of Cambodia.


Smile Train partner Dr. Long Vanna and an all-Cambodian surgical team operated on Morng. It took a little over an hour to transform this little boy.  Just 73 minutes to save Morng from an entire lifetime of suffering and humiliation. Dr. Vanna commented, “I’m delighted seeing poor, lovely children having a new smile.”

Look who’s smiling now.

In her first eleven years, Yi Yun faced a lifetime of heartbreak and disappointment. Because of her cleft, her parents abandoned her soon after she was born. Adopted by her uncle, Yi Yun lives in a home where grinding poverty requires her to work very hard.

School was never an option. Her cleft greatly affected her speech and it made it almost impossible for her to communicate. All the children in her village taunted and teased her.

One day, she received news that she had been chosen to receive free surgery from The Smile Train. This surgery has changed her life. For the first time in her life she can go to school and speech training is helping her learn how to speak properly.

Here is a short video hosted by Walter Cronkite talking about The Smile Train mission

Since March 2000 they have provided free cleft surgery for 315,537  children.

Another short video documenting a recent trip to Bangladesh and India.

What beautiful children they are.

Angelica Joy, 2 years old, from the Philippines



Bhavani, 6 months old, from India


Kabir, 7 months old, from Nigeria


It is my belief that there is abundance in the world. There is an abundance of Love, of Compassion, of Healing, of Joy. There is also an abundance of pain, sadness, and lost hope. I believe that it is up to us who believe as I do, to be the instruments of change and healing in our world. The power of Hope and Compassion and Love can wipe away the forces of pain, sadness and desperation, but only if you, and I, stand up and act.

It is that longing to be better people, to make a better world, to reach out to our brothers and sisters across our country, across our world, that has inspired so many to become involved in politics in the first place.

There are many many things wrong in the world today, perhaps the children in this dairy might not seem as important as Global Warming, oil prices, Wars. I say they are. Every child is a miracle, a spark of the universe made of sunlight and love. If you can help one child find their way in this crazy world by giving them a fair chance at life, you have done well. We are all of us, in this together. Thank you for reading.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.

We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

All things are bound together.

All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

7 comments

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    • FireCrow on June 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm
      Author

    Make a child smile, spread the word.

  1. FireCrow….well done.

    Healthcare for ALL children.

    Peace.

    • Edger on June 8, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    🙂

    • OPOL on June 9, 2008 at 1:54 am

    thank you brother.

    • WSComn on June 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Concerning the following…

    I spent every minute of the next 24 hours either holding or staring at this amazing new perfect little person as I was so immediately and completely in love. I knew instantly that I would do anything for her. No matter the cost, no matter the risks, I was going to give her a good life. I was going to protect her.

    Ain’t it just that cool!!??!!  There’s no feeling like it!

    Beautiful essay, children’s smiles.  Like you, I was lucky, too.

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