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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

31 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.

64

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

$250 per child.
approximately 120,000 children helped last year.
That's $30,000,000.
They raised almost $200,000,000 according to Forbes.
They spend $170,000,000 on everything, except helping the kids.
Only 15% of the money goes to the kids.

28

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I am very disappointed in this organization. I understand that children have this and it can be pretty bad as my son was born with cleft lip and palate but I called to do the donation to give back to what I have paid so much in medical for and not just medical but it is all around for them with dental and all. I called and they told me that they don't make any contributions within the United States to the families that really need the help here. As when my son had his. We are still paying some of the medical bills for it and will until after he turns 18. He has had right now two surgeries and is turning around for a possible third reconstruction. It amazes me that we have so many children that need this in the states to know that they are not and will not even try to help with the surgeries here. I had these specific questions before I even would consider donating and was very disappointed. There is so much more that can be done here to help fellow Americans as well. I am disappointed that they are taking money from the all of us to send overseas to help children there when children as my son could have used the help for it as well. Very disappointed with this charity.

60

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Many years ago this was a good organization founded by a plastic surgeon who saw a need for his skill set and gave years of his life to give impoverished disfigured children a fighting chance at a normal life. THAT HAS NOT BEEN THE CASE FOR MANY YEARS. I don't believe anyone would fund what this "charity" has become. If you have any doubts about where their priorities are, take a look at their very fancy NYC offices, their payroll, the very limited information regarding the way they operate today, as well as the complaints about the inadaquate medical practices they have been accused of.

I took the time to write an email asking to be removed from all of their lists as I have been receiving up to three separate solicitations in any given week and if for no other reason feel the waste of paper and postage is a sin. No response from anyone in the organization, but now they are soliciting on every web page I visit that accepts advertising. This to me, borders on criminal and certainly is not how I want to see money I give to any charity used.

9

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

SmileTrain posts highly offensive web ads depicting disfigured children. I consistently complain to every website carrying such ads. I can support this work, which may be very beneficial to these unfortunate kids, but there has to be a better way than their ad campaign.

17

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I am overwhelmed by solicitations from Smile Train. It is esp. irritating that I obviously have to go out of the way to stop them. I was esp. turned off by the one that said, "Donate now & we will stop sending you these letters-- so you won't have to see these faces." I feel like the victim to receive the letters with these pictures on the OUTSIDE of the envelope. I give to at least 30 other charities. I am most moved by the Carter Foundation and other charities that help with PREVENTION of disease or family planning. Smile Train is not where I want to send my money & I want them to never contact me again.

14

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I had never been active in charity or nonprofit work prior to this past year, when I had an incredible personal experience with SmileTrain that, to me, proved its worth as a tireless and inspired organization devoted to performing good works. Last July, I traveled to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. While motorbiking through the Tanah Toraja region with a friend, I met a local villager named Natsir who was working as an amateur English teacher in the area. After talking for a bit, he invited us to accompany him to his home in a nearby village. We headed up into the hills to his modest house, where he introduced us to his family, poured us cups of tea, and toured us around his small farm. However, I was deeply affected when I saw that Natsir's youngest son Winner, who was two years old at the time, was suffering from an unrepaired cleft palate. Unfortunately, given the family's lack of financial resources and the region's underdeveloped medical infrastructure, the simple procedure needed to remedy his condition was out of the question.

When I relayed this story to my mom, she knew of SmileTrain and thought perhaps they could help. She was able to get in touch with the SmileTrain field officer in Indonesia who was enthusiastic about the potential to help Winner. Unfortunately, the only information I had to help them locate Natsir was his first name, his profession, and the name of the village in which I had originally met him. It was a long-shot, but I forwarded these details to SmileTrain and hoped for the best.

In January, I received an email from our contact at SmileTrain. Through the tireless efforts of their organization, they were able to locate Natsir and his family in their village! As it turns out, Natsir's other son was also suffering from a cleft palate which I did not notice because he did not have as severe a harelip. Both the boys were granted free corrective surgeries and successfully had their operations on January 14 in the city of Rantepao. Now they are in recovery and, in a short time, will be able to give big fat smiles like never before.

The fact that SmileTrain was able to track down this family in such a remote location with so little information is truly remarkable, and as a result, the lives of these two boys have been completely transformed. This organization is certainly worthy of your support, and my experience showed me that their donations are being put to work exactly where they should be. I cannot sing their praises enough- this is exactly what a charitable organization should be doing.

28

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I was waiting in the doctor’s office for my appointment and came across a magazine article for Smiletrain. I was so touched I wanted to donate right away. I just wanted to quickly make sure it was a legitimate charity. After finding out how much the CEO makes a year it was actually possible that I could have over looked it . However I then read a review from someone that was actually trying to make possible donators like me feel guilty by downplaying that Hugh CEO salary and quilting me by stories such as - "what If I where the next child in line for the surgery but the donations ran out". And then thankfully that stupid review snapped me out of my crazy thought process. Because If I where the next child in line for surgery and the donations ran out from people like me that make $28K a year I would have been heartbroken and crushed by a greedy evil CEO. I will continue my search for a charity that is just that a charity.

16

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

I'm an RN, and I have worked with newborns with cleft lips and palates. Most often, this defect is a complete surprise. There are often feeding issues, so it's a difficult time for the families The first surgery in this country is usually done at 3 months of age, and I am always amazed how good the kids look after just one surgery. Luckily kids in this country are treated, not the case in third world countries. I understand that this is not just a genetic defect, but is also related to poor diet. I totally agree that the CEO salary is ridiculous, but the work that is done is essential. I don't know how they manage to perform the kind of work that they do at so little cost. Just imagine how many more surgeries could be done if he cut his salary!

9

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

The seemingly endless supply of children with clefts is because the cleft is most often caused by a defective gene that is passed from generation to generation. Until steps are taken to prevent the passing forward of the gene by the same people who are being COSMETICALLY repaired the whole project is an exercise in futility. I cannot contribute to such a business until an ultimate solution to the problem is presented and implemented.

9

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am the Prevention Coordinator at Central Park East Middle school located in East Harlem. One of our students saw an infomercial and wanted to help. After getting permission from the Principal she then recruited her Board of Directors (advisors as well as other service learning students (Peer leaders) whose job it is to do monthly community service activities to assist her in her endeavor. All parties involved never expected to raise the funds they did but with the inspiration from one student it became contagious that she had the entire school community involved. Her board held dress down days. Healthy snack sales a book fair and a Valentine's Day sweetheart drive. One of our big contributers was Common Cents (Penny harvest) and with the other various service activities we were able to raise a nice amount of money to the SMILE TRAIN organization. It was also an honor to have two representatives from SMILETRAIN to actually come to our school to pick up the check at our Check Ceremony and to also hear how the students got involved in the service activities. It was a great learning experience for all.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

These people are making huge profits for themselves through the abuse of gruesome photographs of poor, maimed children like the recent advertisement in U.S. News & World Report. I am outraged and you should be too.