Today is World Smile Day! However, Operation Smile's mission every day is to bring new smiles to children born with cleft conditions, so we've been celebrating the stories and smiles of our patients all week long.
With that being said, Happy World Smile Week!
If you've been following along on social media, you may have joined in our efforts to spread ways to make more people smile in your community.
Check out the stories below as we lead into today's official celebration of the power of smiles around the world.
Siham believed she was the only person born with a cleft lip.
“Students used to see me as a stranger and say, ‘Look at that girl’s mouth. She’s not like us,’” Siham said. “I didn’t want to go to school at all.”
For the first 12 years of her life, Siham believed she didn’t have a future. Then she learned of Operation Smile Morocco, where she met other people with cleft conditions and received her new smile.
Since her surgery, Siham walks to school with confidence – she especially enjoys her French studies – and no longer worries about being bullied. Thanks to Operation Smile Morocco, Siham also received orthodontic care, ensuring her new smile will stay beautiful for years to come.
Sarban’s parents, Amit and Lolita, had never seen a person with a cleft lip or cleft palate prior to Sarban’s birth. Lolita felt guilty, worrying she may have done something during her pregnancy to cause her son’s condition.
It wasn’t until Sarban started school that his parents learned about the life-changing surgical care we provide around the world.
Five-year-old Sarban, Lolita and Amit traveled to an Operation Smile India care center where Sarban was deemed healthy enough by local medical volunteers to receive his cleft surgery. Today, life is very different for Sarban. With a new smile, he returned to school and has made many friends who he plays with and races against – races, we hear, he frequently wins.
Maria was 5 years old when she first arrived to a 2010 Operation Smile surgical program in Fortaleza, Brazil.
When children like Maria are born with cleft conditions and don't receive timely surgical intervention, it can affect their health, self-confidence and their futures.
Today, Maria loves her smile and enjoys going to school with her friends.
Having received high-quality cleft care from a global community of medical professionals, Maria's future is brighter than ever.
Tiaviniaina has lived up to her name, which means, “she who will be loved.”
Her parents, Lucien and Germaine, are steadfast in their commitment to their daughter’s happiness, despite the harassment they received from others in their village. From a young age, Tiaviniaina faced the harmful impact of stigma, torment and isolation. But, when Tiaviniaina was 8 years old, her family heard of Operation Smile.
Tiaviniaina and her mom took a 14-hour bus ride to reach Majunga, Madagascar. However, Tiaviniaina was deemed too malnourished to undergo safe surgery. Yet, the love her parents had for her motivated them to never give up.
One year later, Tiaviniaina and her father made the same journey to Majunga, Madagascar. Only this time, Tiaviniaina was healthy enough to receive her new smile.
“My joy never ends,” her father said. “It only gets bigger and bigger.”
Operation Smile provides world-class care in more than 30 countries supported by more than 6,000 volunteers from 60 countries.
However, the lack of adequately trained surgeons in countries like Rwanda forces some patients to wait for years before they’re able to receive treatment, which worsens their conditions and further burdens the health system.
To help alleviate needless suffering, our global community of devoted volunteers empower local health care workers through training and education.
We believe access to safe surgery is a basic human right, and, with the help of our volunteers, partners and staff, we’re building local capacity in countries like Rwanda so we can reach more families and provide surgeries and dental care to more children each year.
Five-year-old Tinoh and his family were overjoyed when the father of a former Operation Smile patient told Tinoh's grandfather, Randria, that cleft surgery was possible. The one thing Randria hoped for most was that his grandson would be healthy and that he would live a happy life free from teasing and pain.
Randria accompanied Tinoh to an Operation Smile Madagascar surgical program in Antsirabe while his parents remained home to work on their farm.
After a successful surgery, Randria could not take his eyes off of his grandson. “I am very happy,” he said.
Through patient outreach efforts at our Durgapur Cleft Center, the Operation Smile India local team addresses the need for safe cleft care in the surrounding districts and communities.
Access to timely intervention is made possible through a community-focused patient recruitment strategy with the goal of reaching patients like Fatema who need essential cleft surgery and long-term follow-up care like speech therapy, dentistry and orthodontics.
Help us keep our promise to patients like Siham, Sarban, Maria, Tiaviniaina, Tinoh and Fatema amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support today means we can continue to help them through these uncertain times and provide them with the surgery they deserve when it's safe to resume our work around the world.