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Smile Train, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Birth Defects & Genetic Diseases, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Health, International, International Development

Mission: 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.

Results: 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: 127,000+

Geographic areas served: 85+ of the world’s poorest countries

Programs: 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.

Community Stories

272 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters
3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train provides critical funding for surgery for children with cleft lip and cleft palate, which drastically improves their quality of life. The procedures are performed by surgeons around the world, in the hospitals where they practice, which minimizes travel expenses for children undergoing surgery.

Donor

Rating: 5

We have supported Smile Train since it's inception, but had a life changing experience when we traveled to Guatemala with Smile Train to observe what we are doing in the field. We were able to visit a nutrition center, hospital (observe surgery results), and visited families in rural area's to see how cleft lip surgery changes children and family lives. We are returning to Guatemala on our own to visit and contribute to the Nutrition Center and hospital.

Donor

Rating: 5

We love the personal connection of this organization. Every year we give to Smile Train in honor of our relatives at the Holidays. My kids just LOVE seeing the picture(s) of the children that our donations have helped. They now choose Smile Train regularly when asked where they'd like to donate money on their birthdays or from other earnings.

Donor

Rating: 5

I love this organization. My mother, over her lifetime, supported Smile Train and took great delight in the way they transform lives through a straight forward, powerful intervention. Her enthusiasm for Smile Train has passed on to me and my husband. We love the chance to bring such effective trans-formative help to people who need it.

Donor

Rating: 5

Can't think of a better organization to contribute to.

Donor

Rating: 5

Nothing can beat giving children the chance of a new life! I am proud to be part of the Smile Train family.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Smile Train makes it easy to raise funds for them. Then they make good use of the funds we raise.

I believe my donations to Smile Train bring the highest return on investment of any donation i could make.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I learned about Smile Train when a relative was expecting a daughter with cleft lip/palate. I'd never thought about what a dismal future awaited kids with clefts--especially girls--in many cultures where the corrective surgery we take for granted in the U.S. is hardly available. I'm very impressed with the medical teams that pass their knowledge and skills to doctors in other countries--not just repairing clefts, but enabling local teams to continue the work. As far as I can tell, Smile Train efficiently uses donations, which are often multiplied by matching gifts, and is good about sharing the kids' and parents' experiences with donors. Smile Train is one of the two charities I regularly contribute to.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been donating for 19 years since my son was born (with a cleft pallet). Keep up the good work.

Donor

Rating: 5

I love Smile Train! It gives me the opportunity to help children escape lives of despair, sadness and deprivation. The money is well spent; I'm always delighted to pictures of the children who have received their successful surgeries. I know they now have the chance to live a normal live and live up to their potential. I'll continue contributing to Smile Train as long as I can.

Donor

Rating: 5

Several years ago, my father asked us (his adult children) to make a donation to Smile Train in lieu of Fathers Day and birthday gifts. My sister and I gladly honored his request. It has been wonderful to see how multiple small contributions can add up to a big difference in the life of a child needing surgery. Before choosing Smile Train, my dad researched various organizations based on the integrity of leadership and the percentage of donations used to achieve their missions. Smile Train exceeded his criteria. I recommend it as a worthwhile charity and would encourage others to consider it when making contributions.

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is my favorite charity. With other charities, my money goes into a big pool and it's hard to see the impact. With Smile Train, each $250 goes to repair a child's cleft palate. It gives them a face to see in the mirror, a face to see in pictures...a face to show the world. For the price of one months cable TV bill, I can literally change a child's life forever. It doesn't get any better than that. Thank you Smile Train!

Mike Dinicola

Donor

Rating: 5

We have the easy part. And it makes us feel good.
The volunteering of time away from family by the doctors and staff is nothing short of remarkable.
Thank you for providing the outlet for us to help from afar.

Donor

Rating: 5

Effective, efficient, creative, innovative, results-oriented. A simple and impactful mission superbly executed. A truly worthy organization.

Donor

Rating: 5

For several years I have donated to Smile Train, because of its major impact on children's lives and the possibilities it opens up for their future and their family's well being in many countries. Every year there is a list published in major newspapers of non-profits that use the majority of collected donations on their specified goals and only a small percentage on management, and Smile Train always makes the cut of being a worthy recipient of donated funds with minimal office expenditures and maximum help given to make beautiful smiles.
I may not be wealthy, but when I donate I make sure it is during a double/triple match, or even a five times the donation match, so my money goes farther to help more children. Smile Train is near and dear to my heart and worthy of even dime it collects.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have always donated to Smile Train and I will continue to do so. Cleft lip and palate surgery is such an easy fix but can have an even greater impact on a child's life if it is not fixed. Smile Train really cares about children all over the world and I wouldn't recommend any other charity over smile train

Donor

Rating: 5

Every year my favorite Christmas gift is my family's donation to Smile Train on my behalf. I love the idea of one more child in the world with a glowing smile. What better gift could I ask for?

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been an ardent supporter over the years of Smile Train. My personal goal is to sponsor 100 kids for cleft surgery during my lifetime.
Based on what I have seen, and the regular feedback I receive from them, I am a firm believer that these folks are delivering results.
As one person I cant change the world, but I can change the world for one person, by simply giving them a smile. Among all the things that I may have done in my lifetime, this is one that gives me a great deal of satisfaction, with the knowledge that I made a difference.

Donor

Rating: 5

I love this charity and the ability they provide to make such a direct impact in improving a child's chance at having a life. I have been giving to this charity for about 20 years and have a high level of confidence that the dollars are wisely and efficiently spent.

Donor

Rating: 5

I strongly believe in Smile Trains cause. I think having such a thought can be logically understood. I am sure that I am not the only person who can be impressed by what Smile Train is doing.