Smile Train is an international organization that provides free corrective surgery to children born with clefts; follows through on surgical correction when necessary with speech therapy, orthodontics, and general dentistry; and trains medical professionals in the treatment of clefts. About 170,000 children annually are born worldwide with cleft lip and cleft palate, congenital deformities which interfere with their ability to eat and speak. If uncorrected, they can cause significant psychological and social issues as children grow older.
Established in 1999 by advertising professional Brian Mullaney and computer software executive Charles Wang, the original focus of Smile Train was the training of local medical professionals to perform the cleft-correcting surgery. It since refined its mission to pay those local professionals directly for each corrective surgery performed as well as to serve the cleft-related needs of the children after surgery. Smile Train concentrates its efforts solely serving children born with clefts; to this end, it has established relationships with over 1,100 hospitals in over 75 countries worldwide.
In 2008, Smile Train produced the Academy Award-winning documentary Smile Pinki. The movie illustrated the dramatic changes in the life of a poor Indian girl after she received free surgery to correct her cleft lip.
About the Author: Bryce Neier, JD, practices family law in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is an enthusiastic supporter of causes, like Smile Train, that help children overcome childhood ailments and conditions that might otherwise prevent them from achieving a fruitful adult life.