Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children

by Smile Train
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children
Free Cleft Surgery for 600 Poor Chinese Children

Beijing, China—Xinrui is a two-year-old girl from Bei Gao Li Village, a rural part of China’s Hebei province. When you see her bright smile today you would never know that she was born with both a cleft lip and palate.

Thanks to the generous support of Smile Train donors and the doctors of Beijing Stomatological Hospital, Xinrui received her free Smile Train cleft lip surgery when she was just three months old and her palate surgery shortly after at 16 months. Because she received cleft surgery so early in life she will never know the teasing or difficulties eating and speaking that so many other children born with clefts face.

Today Xinrui is a cheerful and smart little girl. Although she’s only two years old, she has already become a small leader amongst her friends. Her cleverness has made her a favorite among the adults in her community as well. When little Xinrui visits their houses to play they call it “the happy hour.”

Xinrui lives a happy life with love and care from all of her family and friends.

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Changsha, China — Smile Train patient He Yumei describes her determination during Smile Train-sponsored speech therapy treatment, provided for free by Smile Train. She was born with cleft lip and palate, which were repaired, but needed further help correcting her speech.

I was born in a poor mountain village in China where my parents worked hard in the field. I spent my childhood there, unhappy. From kindergarten to primary school, I had grown up with others' derision. When I was a child, I couldn't understand why I was different from others, why playmates laughed at me, and why they refused to play with me.

I did everything alone. I walked alone, studied alone, and came back home early. I completely closed myself off. I just tried my best to be a good student in my teacher's eyes. Looking back now, I don't know how I went through such difficult times. During middle school though, I became cheerful when I realized my dream: to win a place for myself in society.

During summer vacation in 2012, I discovered Smile Train from a magazine that my uncle took from one of their partner hospitals. The news that my cleft lip and palate could be repaired by Smile Train brought me great hope. I never thought repair was possible until this point.

After my surgery, I was determined to get speech therapy. On April 16, 2013, I went to the speech therapy room at The Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in Hunan Province. Ms. He, the speech pathologist, taught me slowly and explained everything in detail. She was patient while I relearned how to articulate properly. I felt embarrassed at the beginning, but I figured out that, in order to treat my speech, mistakes need to happen. Every time I learned a new articulation, I was very careful to practice it repeatedly so I could continue to replicate it. I even practiced articulation on the way to school, despite the odd looks of passersby. When I completely learned an articulation, I felt cheerful and closer to my dream.

With Ms. He’s skillful teaching and guidance, I quickly grasped the pronunciation that before eluded me.

Although I encountered some setbacks in practice, my only thought was that I wanted to speak like a normal person, nothing else mattered. Even when my roommates could no longer tolerate my articulation practice, I simply decided to practice alone in the classroom. For my dream, my future, my relatives, I felt it was all worthwhile. Fly my dream and welcome a better tomorrow.

I am now studying in Hunan Vocational College of Modern Logistics as a freshman in accounting. My new dream is to become a chief financial officer, which I think is a realistic goal. I believe that my dream will be achieved through perseverance and an earnest attitude.

Thank you Smile Train and the generous donors who give to this charitable organization for providing me speech therapy free of charge. I will cherish the precious chance you have given me. You are my power to strive, you give me a chance of rebirth, and you guide me a bright way. When I come to crossroads in my life, I will think of you and pass on my deepest love.

Before I hated destiny for making a fool of me, but now I feel grateful to destiny for such a different life experience. I believe that such experiences will help me go through difficulties in the future. I have known how to resolve obstacles before me. I was favored by fortune!


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Xi'an, China — For some people, four years is a short period of time. For a surgeon, four years is the amount of time spent in medical school. For Smile Train, four years is just shy of a third of our existence. However, for a child with a cleft, four years can change his fate. Four years moved Hua Tai'an and his family from sadness and helplessness to happiness and hope.

Hua Tai’an was born in July 2006 with both a cleft lip and a cleft palate in Xianyang City, China. Not long after his birth, Hua’s father began to seek treatment for his son. The family used all of what little savings they had to pay for Hua’s cleft lip surgery, which still left Hua’s nose misshapen. They had no money left to afford surgery to repair his cleft palate. Luckily, not long after, Hua’s father learned of free cleft surgeries being provided by Smile Train’s earliest partner hospital in his province, Stomatological Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University.

The hospital’s staff was struck by the appearance of the father and son when they arrived at the hospital — Hua was beautiful little child, while his father had long, shaggy hair down to his worn-out clothes. Despite making the journey with his son to the hospital, Hua’s father was still skeptical that surgery could be free in such a large hospital in a big city like Xi’an, especially because the first surgery had cost his family's life savings. The doctors told him that, “Smile Train pays for you, so that you can enjoy the free surgery.” He still had his reservations, but couldn't pass up the chance to repair Hua's palate.

On July 8, 2008, two-year-old Hua Tai’an underwent a successful surgery to repair his cleft palate.

A Need for Speech Therapy

As time passed after the surgery, the father found that his child was still unable to play with other children. Hua was unable to speak clearly because he had already developed improper speaking habits before his cleft palate surgery. Naturally, he was very concerned for his son. In 2010, our Smile Train partner invited Hua and his father to a speech language camp for cleft palate patients to help correct his speech.

At the speech camp, Hua and his father took part in the activities with the other patients and their families. Despite being with other cleft patients like him, Hua was too shy to look up or speak. His father said that the poor appearance of his son’s nose due to his original surgery at a hospital not aligned with Smile Train was to blame.The team at the hospital recommended a second surgery to revise the cleft lip repair and help with Hua’s speech. Hua’s father was even more worried about the possible costs than during his first visit to the hospital. The doctor’s explained to him that he need not worry because Smile Train would once more fund the treatment as well as transportation fees to and from the hospital.

A Perfect Smile

After many months spent debating another surgery, Hua’s father permitted surgical treatment for his son. On February 10, 2012, Hua was operated on by the same surgeon who originally treated his cleft palate. The surgery was a great success and Hua was discharged from the hospital on schedule.

During one of Hua’s follow-up visits in November 2012, doctors thought that another child had entered their office due to his beautiful smile. Hua had made wonderful progress. He spoke confidently to all the staff and proudly shared his academic achievements.

Even Hua's father’s smile had noticeably grown. He said his son had been much more cheerful and outgoing, as if Hua was a different person. The difficulties of the past four years had disappeared. He proudly displayed all the materials associated with his son’s years of treatment. Doctors were inspired when they noticed report cards of the speech treatment camp that the father had cherished, but was so common to them. Hua’s father finally found that his son could be as outstanding as other children, if not more so.

The team at Stomatological Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University was grateful and happy as well. Throughout the past four years, the father had worn the same clothes every time he visited the hospital. Under such difficult economic conditions, the hospital staff was unsure how long the family’s persistence in treating their son could last.

It took the hospital staff some time to consider what was the key to Hua’s success. They recently wrote to Smile Train in conclusion that:

“Without the support of such a strong foundation — Smile Train — we couldn't have persisted on for four years with a single patient. Poor families couldn't have afforded the surgery, let alone follow up care. Without Smile Train, the team approach to cleft care wouldn't have such development or scale as today. Without Smile Train, how could we have seen the smiles of children with cleft lip and cleft palate?


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Dover, Delaware — Smile Train supporter Kateri Lambrose shares the story of how she adopted her daughter Alayna, a former Smile Train patient.

"We are so thankful that Smile Train blessed our daughter with the surgical intervention that she needed to ensure proper nutrition, growth, and development until we could bring her home."

Our family committed to adopt a child from China in March of 2006. In December of 2007, my first view of Fu Chang was a very small picture on our adoption agency’s website, but before I knew it, I was head over heels in love with her.

About mid-December, our agency got a new group of special needs children that were available for adoption. When you adopt from China, you have to state whether you want to adopt a "healthy child" whom they refer to as Non-Special Needs or you can put your name on a list that allows you the opportunity to adopt a child with a special need.

As I scrolled through the pictures of these beautiful children on the adoption agency’s website, looking at faces only — not really focusing on birth dates or needs — I stopped on the face of a little girl in a walker. There was nothing terribly remarkable about her picture but something stopped my heart, stopped my eyes from looking beyond her face. I had this indescribable reaction to her picture. Now, looking back, I strongly believe that God had His hand firmly planted on me and this child because there is no other explanation for what happened next.

Fu Chang was born with a bilateral cleft lip and a cleft palate. On July 4, 2007, doctors from Smile Train repaired the left and more severe side of her cleft lip. Then again in November, Smile Train repaired the right side of her lip.

Without speaking to my husband first, I impulsively emailed our adoption agency. I told the coordinator if by chance Fu Chang didn't find a home with one of the families already signed up, we would be interested in learning more about her. She quickly told me that yes, another family already had her file but that she would send us an application for the special needs program. She encouraged me to get on the list for another child. It came as no surprise. I knew she would find a family quickly. Why not? Her needs were minor in my eyes, she was young, and she was cute. That said, I never even mentioned her to my husband.

The application to join the other 24 families on the special needs list came in the mail on Christmas Eve. I looked at it briefly and then tucked it away in my pile of things to get back to over the Christmas break. That evening, I found my thoughts wandering again to Fu Chang. Christmas Day, I silently prayed for her as I pulled her picture up on the website, as if checking on her...once again wondering which lucky family had decided to adopt her...thinking about how this would be her last Christmas in an orphanage...praying that she wouldn't have to be there much longer. Christmas night, after things had finally settled down, I sat down and filled out the application by myself, still not knowing whether we would ever send it in.

The next morning, December 26th, it was business as and organizing, when the phone rang. The caller ID said it was from the adoption agency and I immediately started to shake — our agency never calls! It could only be one thing...

It was the special needs program coordinator calling to tell us that Fu Chang's file was going to be Fed-Exed to us immediately, she was ours if we wanted her! Talk about surreal. We thought we had one or two or more years to wait for our girl, now we had two weeks to decide if we wanted to adopt Fu Chang. And all I could think to do was thank God.

Her file arrived the next day. We found that her full name was Ning, Fu Chang and she was living in a subtropical area of China called Nanning City. Her name, which translates to "She grows up to be a beautiful and blessed person who lives a better life," was given to her by the orphanage staff.

We took some time to pray, educate ourselves about cleft lip and palate, and then we took it to a family vote. On January 1, 2008, by a vote of 4 to 0, our family officially decided to adopt Ning, Fu Chang.

We would name our daughter Alayna Fu Chang.

Alayna has had several surgeries since coming home but nothing more has been done to her lip. The scars are faint, her smile is infectious, and her plastic surgeon has commented several times that Smile Train did a great job on her cleft lip!

We will be forever grateful to Smile Train, the unnamed donors, and the countless medical professionals that treated and loved our girl. Had she not had these critical surgeries, her life may have taken a much different turn…her future more uncertain…her joy less contagious. Alayna has touched so many lives with her story but mostly with her heart. People are drawn to her because of her beautiful smile and joyful laugh, but they are forever touched by the love that she gives without boundaries or expectations. Bringing Alayna home has been one of the greatest blessings in our lives, and watching her grow and thrive has been nothing short of miraculous.

We are so thankful that Smile Train blessed our daughter with the surgical intervention that she needed to ensure proper nutrition, growth, and development until we could bring her home. We have been so blessed by Smile Train!

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Beijing, China — Acclaimed author Mary Doria Russell describes what this incredible day means not just to Wang Li and her husband, but the entire Smile Train family.

Be sure to watch the video commemorating Wang Li's wedding.

Every morning the news delivers you a fresh list of horribles. Conflict around the world. Environmental degradation. Threats and disasters, rancor and misery... There's not a lot you can do about all that, but when you're a Smile Train donor, you get news like this.

This kind of news doesn't make headlines, but it should. In 1998, Wang Li was the recipient of the first Smile Train cleft repair surgery in China. Just look at her now!

The child of a poor family in a town far from China's prosperous coastal cities, Wang Li had already endured years of ridicule and rejection before Smile Train changed her life. School was an ordeal, so Wang Li had at home, falling farther and farther behind her peers.

When she was nine, a passing stranger saw her mouth and asked her parents why they didn't get surgery for her. Wang Li's parents told him that they had no money for surgery. That stranger told the family about the dramatic before and after pictures he's seen in a Nanjing newspaper.

Those memorable, stunning photos caught his eye and showed him that clefts can be successfully repaired. He passed that information on to Wang Li's family, and told them than an international organization called Smile Train would soon be providing free cleft surgery at Nanjing's Gulou Hospital.

The result of that chance encounter?

At 8:30 on January 26, 1998, Wang Li was a 9-year-old girl with a severe cleft palate and cleft lip. She was someone who believed that she "couldn't be as good as other people."

At 10:30 on January 26, 1998, Wang Li was a 9-year-old girl who looked in a mirror and saw a different person. She saw someone who "could go to school, and make friends, and have a normal life."

At 14, Wang Li was a well-spoken, confident, outgoing student who was working hard to catch up with her classmates. "Now I look like everyone else," she wrote to Smile Train in 2003. "I can do what every other kid does. I study very hard at school...Thank you for giving me a chance."

Wang Li graduated with good marks and has kept in touch with Smile Train.

Today she is a beautiful 23-year-old woman. Recently, she wrote again to share her happiness with us, "I am married!! My husband is also a descendant of peasants. He is humble, honest, kindhearted, and giving. He is also working at a factory of producing electronic products. We love each other. Our personalities match too. Our hearts are filled with hope for our brighter future."

We love each other. What a simple sentence, but how profound.

Wang Li doesn't know the names of the strangers that contributed to Smile Train when it was just getting started in China. She doesn't know the name of the man who told her parents about the hospital that would provide free cleft surgeries. She doesn't know the names of the medical team that gave her a second life and a brand new hope at life in a matter of hours.

"I am truly grateful," Wang Li wrote this year, "Smile Train gave me courage and confidence. My husband and I and wish Smile Train to help more people born with clefts and make their smiles bloom and brighten their lives too!!"

In May, 2012, Smile Train announced a magnificent milestone: 750,000 surgeries.

Three quarters of a million new smiles, brightening the world.

Three quarters of a million children with repaired clefts who can go to school and make friends, who can grow up and find work and love, just as Wang Li did.

Each Smile Train surgery creates an inheritance of smiles and hope that will last generations. That's a lot of bang for 250 bucks!

Every morning, Wang Li gets up and looks in the miiro and knows that there are some problems that really can e solved, once and for all.

And that's what every donor to Smile Train knows, too. We might not see headlines about it, but this year we will know that we have changed more than 750,000 lives by solving one problem at a time, once and for all.

Together, we have made a difference in a world where that can be hard to do.

Mary Doria Russell, renowned author, and proud Smile Train donor.

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Smile Train

Location: New York - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @smiletrain
Smile Train
Adina Wexelberg-Clouser
Project Leader:
Adina Wexelberg-Clouser
Donor Relations Associate
New York, New York United States

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