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Smile Train, Inc.

Rating: 2.96 stars   94 reviews 44,035


41 Madison Ave 28th Floor New York NY 10010 USA


Smile Train is an international children’s charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate. Millions of children in developing countries with unrepaired clefts live in shame, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking. Cleft repair surgery is simple, and the transformation is immediate. Our sustainable model provides training and funding to empower local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery in their communities. We use the “teach a man to fish” model focusing on training local doctors to perform cleft repairs in their communities. Those doctors then go on to train other doctors creating a long-term, sustainable system. Patients see their smile for the first time, parents cry tears of joy, lives and communities are changed forever. As a result of our efficiency and with the support of our donors and partners around the world, Smile Train has transformed the lives of more than one million children by giving them the power of a smile -- that's roughly 350 surgeries a day and 128,000+ every year. Join us and change the world one smile at a time.


Since its beginning in 1999 Smile Train has provided more than 1,000,000 free surgeries for children who would otherwise never have received it.

Target demographics:

children suffering from cleft lips and palates

Direct beneficiaries per year:


Geographic areas served:

85+ of the world’s poorest countries


Treatment program: free cleft surgeries - while our cost per surgery varies across the 85+ different countries where we have worked, our contribution per surgery can be as low as $250. This amount reflects the contribution per surgery that we provide our partner hospitals. They also cover a significant portion of each surgery as part of our cost-sharing agreement with our medical partners. Free medical equipment & infrastructure support - for many of our partners, access to safe operating rooms is their biggest barrier. Many struggle with old and inadequate equipment such as anesthesia machines and a lack of other equipment and supplies. Smile train provides financial support that has been used for everything from building new operating rooms to crucial safety equipment such as pulse oximeters and cleft surgical instruments and supplies including scalpels and sutures. All of these investments work to provide a significant number of incremental surgeries, but also result in safer and higher quality outcomes for children in need. Free ancillary treatment - every child with cleft needs more than just surgery. Often they also need orthodontic care and speech therapy. Where these services are available, we do everything we can to make them accessible to our patients. We pay for speech therapy sessions, orthodontic work and much more. Financial aid for poor patients - some of our patients are so malnourished they are not healthy enough to be safely operated on and are provided food for one to two weeks before surgery. Some of our patients are so poor they have no money to get to the hospital or to travel home after surgery. Sometimes they have no shoes and no money for food. We have special programs that give small stipends for these poorest of the poor. These expenses exclude $57,036,544 donated time and services from doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, organizations, companies, other medical professionals and medical facilities and supplies.

public education program: every year, people in developing countries isolate or abandon their newborn babies because they don't know a cleft is a simple birth defect and not a "curse from god. " thousands of children with clefts are never brought to hospitals for treatment because their parents don't know clefts are treatable. Thousands of people in developing countries come to smile train for information on how to find a good cleft team and how to take care of their newborn babies with clefts. Through direct mail, websites, newspapers, radio, tv, public service announcements, documentaries, public relations, social media, etc. , we raise public awareness about clefts in developing countries and in the united states.

training program: smile train provides free training and education to cleft care professionals around the world. Access to education and training opportunities is critical to smile train's mission of empowering local medical teams to provide safe, high-quality cleft care. Over the past 15 years, we have provided support for more than 1,500 medical conferences and training opportunities to improve cleft treatment in the developing world. Smile train supports hands-on and workshop-based training opportunities to improve the skill level of cleft care professionals in the developing world. Recent initiatives have focused on supporting training programs for cleft care nurses and anesthesiologists, including the development of the smile train safe nursing care saves lives program in africa that has now been scaled and implemented for smile train partners around the world. Smile train is innovative in its approach to provide quality training to medical professionals worldwide. In the developing world, surgeons often do not have access to the latest innovative techniques and updated protocols for cleft surgery. Smile train partners have conducted over one million surgeries worldwide and lacking access to such resources can be a barrier to their continuing education and quality improvement. Smile train recognized this problem and since 1999 has distributed free virtual surgery training materials to 40,000+ medical professionals in 149 countries around the world. Smile train took this technology to the next level and recently released the first open-access, web-based, interactive virtual surgery simulator designed to enhance training for surgeons on how to repair clefts. The simulator links state-of-art surgical resources to the most remote parts of the world, and changes the paradigm of surgical training internationally. The simulator was distributed to 1100+ smile train partner surgeons worldwide. Since the launch of the simulator, smile train confirmed users of the system in more than 90 countries around the world, including places where over half the population lives below the poverty level and where the per capital annual income is less than $500 per year. Through this unique approach smile train has leveraged technology to change the course of medical education while also improving the lives of children born with cleft in the developing world.

2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Reviews for Smile Train, Inc.

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

1 person found this review helpful

My experiences witnessing the barriers to dental care motivated me to become involved with the organization Smile Train. I have fundraised for treatment for children with clefts and provided literacy to the community about cleft conditions. My involvement with this organization not only fulfilled me deeply, but also gave me a background in oral and maxillofacial terminology while also improving my communication and teamwork skills. This experience will inevitably prepare me for a career as a dentist and help me reduce health-care disparities.

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Rating: 1 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I gave to this 'Charity' and now get calls from paid callers (they even said that) CONSTANTLY!!!!
I have tried to get them to stop, now I just don't answer the phone....
The salaries of these 'not for profit' charities is regoddamndiculous!!!!
I now give to the Salvation Army, and the Salvation Army only......
I encourage you to do the same.

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(Nonprofit Staff) wrote:

On behalf of our Smile Train staff, as well as all of the children we help, thank you for your support. With your help, we have been able to provide 1,000,000+ free cleft surgeries since 1999. We apologize for the volume of phone calls that you have received and for any offense that they may have caused you, please know that was never our intention. Please provide us with your name and telephone number and we will add you to the Do Not Call list right away. You can email the information to us at: Info@smiletrain.org, attn: donor relations manager. Please feel free to contact us directly if you have any other questions or concerns. Thank you for your support of Smile Train!

Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

Smile Train is one of the best charities I have ever been involved with. As a volunteer at many of their events, I have had the chance to interact with the amazing staff who care so much about the organization. This is such an amazing cause and I am proud to be a supporter. They have changed so many lives all over the world!!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I support smile train because they are amazing! Such a selfless organization helping people get corrective surgeries for cleft. 26 years ago I was born with a cleft palate. My family didnt know about smile train but I am sure they would have helped me. I enjoy volunteering in NYC with the great staff. Also the view is breathtaking. :-)
-Tiffany Dawson age 26 NYC

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

Amazing work! Smile Train does life changing work that brings joy to so many lives. I am a proud volunteer and I am grateful to work for such a powerful charity.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

The impact that this organization has is incredible. I've been a donor and supporter of SmileTrain for a little over two years now, but I never fully understand the scope of their work until I had the opportunity to go on a Journey of Smiles in Peru. Speaking with the patients and their family gave me an entirely new perspective.

One child that particularly stands out is a 14 year old boy. He was small for his age, but he was wise beyond his years. He has that air about him. On a superficial level, I knew SmileTrain was paying for his surgery and that in itself is a wonderful thing. But, then we found out his back story and just how much it meant to him to finally get his cleft palate repaired and as much as the story was heartbreaking, it was also uplifting. Everything that this child had been through and the reason he wanted the surgery so he can become a police officer and provide for his family. And now he can and I know he will.

The average cost of a cleft palate/lip surgery globally is about $250. That's such a small amount of money in comparison to the benefits that are direct outcome from it. These kids can now attend school and go on to have normal and productive lives. And I can't wait to see all the wonderful things that these beautiful children go on to accomplish.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I've been working with and donating to Smile Train over the past 3 years. They invited me to India on their Journey of Smiles trip. What an amazing experience. They are changing the lives of children around the world and one surgery is only $250. There is no cure for clefts so the need is unwavering. They have an exceptionally effective business model and have conducted over 1 million surgeries in over 87 countries. Not to mention, the staff and board at Smile Train are compromised with some of the most professional, smart, and talented group of individuals that i've ever worked with. Smile Train is an amazing charity that does amazing work.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I serve on the Young Leadership Board of Smile Train and I just got back from Peru, where I met patients and actually had the opportunity to see first hand the power of smile. To most of us, smiling isn't a big deal--we just do it. We also just eat and talk and live a normal life, but Smile Train literally enables children and adults who have never been able to smile, to eat normally, to live and to be happy and it's important work. It's real work and I am glad to be a part of it.

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Rating: 4 stars  

Last year, I joined smile train as a volunteer and social media ambassador! They are changing so many children's lives and putting smiles on their faces. They always keep you informed about local and worldwide events giving you the opportunity to help in whatever way you're able to. The entire staff is amazing and they're really passionate about the children which makes you care even more! Smile Train gives children the opportunity to be children and not feel different from their peers.

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Role: General Member of the Public
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

From Chicago to Mexico
Graham Elliot Takes a Journey of Smiles to Visit Smile Train’s Local Programs in Mexico

I remember like it was yesterday… I arrived in Mexico City on my Journey of Smiles hosted by Smile Train (smiletrain.org), the world’s largest cleft charity, and was greeted by the most heartwarming welcoming party imaginable; a choral group of seven children, all of who had undergone surgery to repair a cleft lip or palate. I learned that not only did the singing boost the children's sense of self-esteem, but it also acted as a form of speech therapy that the kids actually enjoyed doing.

After the joyous singing and dancing came to end, a group of us drove out of the city to visit with Jasmine, a seventeen-year-old single mother of two. The newest addition to her family, a six-week-old baby boy name Ivan, was born with a cleft lip and palate. This was not caught during her routine ultrasound so it came as a total surprise, leaving Jasmine wondering what to do or where to even start.

At that very moment all I could think about was my son Conrad who was born with a bilateral cleft lip. My wife Allie and I were also caught off guard as we knew of nobody in our family that was born with a cleft. Our doctor at that time mentioned that a bilateral cleft could be indicative of Down syndrome, so we didn’t know what to expect or prepare for. Although we sympathized greatly with Ivan’s mother considering our similar situation, we reassured her that everything was going to be fine because she was in good hands with Smile Train. We even showed before and after photos of Conrad's surgery so she could get a sense of what to expect.

We're happy to say, little Ivan has received his first surgery. Allie and I are hoping to make it back down to Mexico City to assist in any way and be there for support. It's safe to say that Ivan will need some additional surgeries, but with Smile Train's outreach and ability to create sustainable ways to repair clefts, he's most certainly set up for success.
It was great to see firsthand that Smile Train is there to help turn those dreams into a reality. I am happy that I was also able to share my story with one of Smile Train’s patients while in Mexico, giving them comfort in knowing that they are not alone. All parents want the same thing for their children – a long, happy and healthy life.

(Photo Credit: Baby Ivan and me just after I finished giving him his midday bottle.)

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Review from #MyGivingStory