Founded in 1999, Smile Train has grown to be the world's largest cleft charity and has made great inroads repairing cleft palates and cleft lips in countries where these untreated disfigurements cause lifetimes of psychological pain and physical suffering. Children with clefts often cannot speak or eat properly, and their physical plight is compounded by the fact that they are often not allowed to attend school and they are ostracized, even by members of their own families.
Smile Train pioneered the training of doctors to perform the relatively fast 45 minute surgery to provide free, safe treatment for poor patients with cleft lip and/or palate. Organized in such a way that overhead expenses are largely paid by Smile Train’s board members, the charity is able to claim that virtually all donated funds go to repairing clefts for individuals who would never normally receive such help.
The charity’s one millionth patient, six year old Osawa Owiti from a remote village in Tanzania, had already experienced years of psychological and physical hardship, and his mother was also subject to the stigma, being unjustly blamed for her child’s cleft. But Osawa is now recovered from his surgery and happily enjoying the new life he has been given.
Smile Train – and all cleft repair groups – are to be thanked for the work they are doing. Considering the extent of the cleft problem throughout the world, it is something for which we can be truly grateful that this particularly debilitating cause of suffering is being so aggressively fought. You can read more about Osawa Owiti and the work of the Smile Train here. It is a worthwhile work for which we can pray, and one which deserves continued support.