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2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit

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 untreated clefts live in isolation, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking. Cleft repair surgery is simple, and the transformation is immediate. Our sustainable model provides training, funding, and resources to empower local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own 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. 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: one child received cleft surgery every five minutes.

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

Programs: Globally, 1 in every 700 children is born with a cleft. While surgery can take as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as $250, it is out of reach for many in the developing world. Smile Train is an international children’s charity that provides 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in 85+ developing countries. Our sustainable model empowers local doctors to provide cleft care in their own communities. Most children who are born with a cleft lip and/or palate develop normal speech once their palate is closed, but a significant amount will need further surgery or speech therapy. Communication problems that are addressed include language delay, articulation problems, and hypernasality. In the developed world, cleft repair is typically provided by multidisciplinary cleft/craniofacial teams comprised of professionals from a variety of healthcare backgrounds including surgeons and orthodontists who work on the child’s total rehabilitation. Smile Train provides vital dental and orthodontic treatment in countries where they are available. Smile Train provides essential free training and education to cleft surgeons and related medical professionals around the world. Since 1999, we have provided more than 66,000 free scholarships, surgical training resources, workshops, and symposiums for doctors and medical professionals from 140+ countries. Smile Train provides financial support that has been used for a wide range of applications, including new operating rooms, cleft surgical instruments and supplies like scalpels and sutures, crucial safety equipment like pulse oximeters, and much more. All of these investments make not only a significant number of incremental surgeries possible, but also make these surgeries safer and of higher quality. Smile Train has played an integral role in developing some of the most cutting-edge advances in cleft care, including the award-winning Virtual Surgery Simulator, which makes complex cleft surgical techniques seem simple to understand, and our Speech Therapy App, which helps children gain confidence in their verbal abilities in their own language. Smile Train's Medical Advisory Board (MAB) is comprised of the best and brightest cleft experts in the world, from maxillofacial surgeons to anesthesiologists to speech pathologists. The MAB compiles information for Smile Train to disseminate in an effort to raise awareness and change public attitudes about clefts. Smile Train is active in launching patient outreach campaigns in an effort to reach patients even in the most remote of areas. These include radio advertisements and programs, fliers, print advertising in local newspapers (with pictures so that even people who are unable to read can be reached), collaborations with other organizations for patient referrals, SMS/text message alerts, and much more. Some of our patients are so malnourished they are not healthy enough to receive surgery. In these cases, they are provided with food for one to two weeks before surgery. We also have patients that are so poor they have no money to get home after surgery. We have special programs that give small stipends to the poorest of the poor that allows them to receive their cleft treatments.

Community Stories

2 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



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.


Rating: 5

My wife Jean and I have been financial supporters of Smile Train, Inc. for several years now. By the grace of God, we were able to pay for two children's cleft palate/cleft lip surgeries at very low cost because all the professionals (dentists, orthodontists, physicians, anesthesiologist, nurses, etc.) DONATE THEIR EXPERTISE for FREE!

Why is this surgery so important, you ask? Well, for one thing, it's not merely cosmetic in nature, to make the kids' faces look pretty. It's far more vital than that.

These young children and babies are primarily from foreign countries and poor families that cannot afford the surgery. Not only are the children mercilessly teased because of their facial deformity, many have trouble even breathing, swallowing food, speaking and just plain living as they are usually isolated at home away from other children to play with.

Here's where Smile Train, Inc. truly SMILES on these needy kids. With absolutely FREE surgical services, the deformities are permanently corrected and the children are given a NEW LIFE without that terrible facial abnormality. They live as normal, happy children, going to school and playing with others.

It's truly a life-saving, life-sustaining gift for a deserving child that YOU can be a part of, either through your financial support or donation of your professional services, or both.

Smile Train, Inc is here for them. Are you here for Smile Train, Inc.?

Rev. Duane A. Janssen
Ordained Christian Minister
Author, writer, poet
email: dajanssen49@gmail.com
Phoenix, AZ USA


Rating: 5

The simple truth is, for $250 anyone can change the course of a child's life. I can make an impact on one child by changing a child's mouth from that of a disfformed sadness into a light upon his family, village and ultimately the World. For me this is the most inexpensive and powerful way to spread good will throughout the globe.