Club Meeting - Smile Train

Thu, Sep 15th 2022 at 6:30 pm - 8:15 pm

Since giving this talk in September 2022, President Annette has achieved her target of raising sufficient funds for six operations. (Posted 12th Jan 2023)

Smile Train logo


Annette’s interest in cleft palate was first aroused at University where she witnessed not only the distress caused to neonates but to the mothers themselves.  The condition is not solely a cosmetic one as it gives rise to feeding difficulties and speech  problems. The failure of the palate to fuse along the mid line  during development can result in mother’s milk passing out via the nose and failing to reach the stomach.  The condition is thankfully not seen as much in the UK as it was but elsewhere the incidence is still unacceptably high.

“Smile Train” started as a physical train manned by volunteers and surgeons giving up their holidays to tour countries and treat victims.  The train has changed from noun to verb as the emphasis has turned to training local healthcare professionals to treat patients themselves, thus casting the net much more widely.  It became an International charity in 1999 and is the world’s largest cleft focussed organisation.

Treatment not only includes the operation itself; much needed after care and psychological support is provided to ease the patient back into normal life.  Since its inception the charity has treated 1.5 million people across the globe including India, China, Indonesia and Africa.  It is more prevalent amongst boys interrupting growth, due to malnutrition and causing hearing  problems.

The condition can be one or two sided or even both,  drastically affecting the dentition and causing speech defects.  The causes can be genetic or the result of alcohol or drug abuse. Poverty and the low level of vitamin B  and Folic Acid in the diet are all contributory fac-tors.

It is difficult to imagine the trauma experienced by these poor children. They are, more often than not, isolated and persecuted by their contemporaries, the affliction being seen as ‘the mark of the devil’. 

However, help is at hand.  Reconstructive surgery is  now highly successful and Smile Train efforts enable treatment to be available year round rather  than just when the physical train pulls into town.

Annette made the heart-warming observation that even under China’s one child policy, when babies were abandoned, cleft afflicted children were preserved by protective mother love.  The avowed aim of the Smile Train Charity is that they will never stop until every cleft afflicted child  has been offered treatment.

Graham offered Annette a grateful vote of thanks recalling the cruel treatment meted out to one of the boys with cleft in his school and expressing the hope that we may be able to assist financially in this wonderful work.

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