By: Tanya Kapoor

In developing countries, approximately 170,000 children are born annually with cleft lips and palate problems. It occurs when parts of the lip or roof of the mouth do not merge during fetal growth and leave a gap. These deformities scar the lives of the children born with it. Most are unable to eat and speak properly and also face isolation and depression. Besides this, they are also unable to go to school and secure a job. In many developing countries extreme cases involve abandoning the child.

With this background, Smile Train, a non-governmental organization, has come forward with a helping hand. Headquartered in New York, the organization provides 100% -free cleft repair surgery and care for these children and adults in developing countries. Since 1999, the charity has provided 1 million plus free surgeries in more than 85 countries. In fact, roughly very 5 minutes, a surgery is funded. The organization has only one goal – “To give every cleft child the chance to smile” . The simple surgery costs an amount of about US $250 and takes 45 minutes to perform and with this, a child’s whole life is transformed.

Smile Train has an Indonesian chapter as well, Yayasan Smile Train Indonesia, where to date the organization has provided about 62,000 free surgeries. In Indonesia, about 8,900 children are born annually with cleft problems and more than 50% of them go untreated. The main reasons being a lack of funds and awareness that the condition is treatable. This is what the organization primary mission is: awareness and free treatment for the needy. It works with local doctors and hospitals and treats those affected in their communities. Providing treatment across Indonesia’s 18,000 islands is demanding. Furthermore, reaching remote areas, while simultaneously trying to provide high standard health care is challenging. Numerous people living in small islands do not have the means to come to larger cities or islands. According to Dr. Ashish Sabharwal, Vice President and Regional Director of Smile Train South East Asia, the organization strives to assist such cases as well. They conduct in-country missions and set up operation stations, on an island with adequate health care standards and fund the transportation required for patients to reach the island. The Smile Train ground workforce teams search for patients from all regions and try to broaden their reach over the country.

In today’s fast-paced world, most of us are so busy in our own lives, that we forget to appreciate of our most basic blessings – Our SMILE and the joy it brings to us and those around us. Why don’t we pause and think of a moment if due to a genetic defect, we were unable to show our face to anybody without embarrassment nor being able to smile?

As citizens of the world, all of us have the choice to come forward and give a helping hand to a worthy cause. We can all get involved in our own way: raise awareness about the charity and recommend it to cleft patients. Presently, most of the surgeries in Indonesia are funded with funds received from overseas. All of us can contribute towards raising more funds locally. Corporate sponsorships and events can go a long way to providing visibility to this cause and together small contributions can provide hundreds of smiles.

Smile Train, Indonesia, gives us a wonderful opportunity to give back to the country we stay in. Let us try to change the world one smile at a time.

For more information, Smile train Indonesia can be contacted at :

For donations, the bank details are:

Bank Name: BCA cabang Kelapa Gading Villa
Bank Address : Jl. Boulevard Barat Raya Blok LCG No. 51-53 Kelapa Gading, Jakarta Utara, postal code 14240
SWIFT Code: CENAIDJA
Beneficiary name: Yayasan Smile Train Indonesia
Account Number: 4139219888

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