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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

207 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

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.

Donor

Rating: 5

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF KNOWING SOMEONE WITH A CLEFT PALATE WAS WHEN I WAS 16. THE YEAR WAS 1965. I WENT TO SCHOOL WITH A WONDERFUL YOUNG MAN WHO HAD THIS CONDITION. FORTUNATELY, HE HAD AN IQ OF 200 AND HIS FATHER WAS THE AMBASSADOR FROM TURKEY, SO THE SURGERY WAS PERFORMED AT BIRTH. I ALWAYS WONDERED WHAT LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE IF HE HADN'T HAD THE SURGERY AND SUPPORT OF LOVING PARENTS. LATER ON I TRAVELED FOR BUSINESS IN MANY PARTS OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD AND SAW SO MANY CHILDREN WITH CLEFT PALATES THAT HAD NOT BEEN REPAIRED. IT ABSOLUTELY BROKE MY HEART, BECAUSE MANY WOMEN WERE LIVING ON THE STREETS WITH THESE CHILDREN OR WORSE THESE KIDS WERE ALONE. IT INSPIRED ME TO GIVE AS MUCH AS I COULD OVER THE YEARS. I AM VERY GRATEFUL TO THE NURSES AND DOCTORS WHO DO THIS SURGERY FOR FREE. THE COST IS SO LITTLE COMPARED TO THE FACT YOU WILL FOREVER CHANGE THE LIFE OF A PERSON. THANK YOU SMILE TRAIN FOR ALL OF YOU WHO WORK SO HARD TO HELP OTHERS.
SALLY

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is truly one of the worthiest of charities since it's mission is simply to give kids a chance at a normal life through the provision of cost free cleft surgeries. The work these folks do to restore smiles and a sense of normalcy for these kids is amazing. I will always be a supporter.

Donor

Rating: 5

My Mom and Dad introduced me to Smile Train. They thought I would be interested since I was born with a cleft lip and palate. My wife and I made donations but I wanted to do more. I immediately thought of my job as a Physical Education teacher and what if I was able to get my whole school involved. In 2007 The "Miles for Smiles" mini marathon was born. I teach my students about Smile Train, what a cleft lip and palate is, how they can be fixed and how a child's life can be transformed. After the lesson my students collect money for Smile Train. At the end of the collection time we have a walk/run for 30 minutes to celebrate the operations we will sponsor as a school. The event does several things. First it raises money for Smile Train, second it teaches my students the importance of helping others and finally it gets them physically active by running and walking for 30 minutes. We just finished our 11th annual event. It has become a fixture on our school calendar. It brings our community together as students, teachers, parents and business partners all work together to help Smile Train and give children around the world a new smile.
I think Smile Train is a great organization. They are able to not only give kids a new smile in just 45 minutes, but they are literally changing the course of their life. These kids can now go to school, get a job and live a normal life. I love the fact that Smile Train teaches the local doctors the skills necessary for the operations and care, so that the local community can continue the work that Smile Train started. Smile Train has been so wonderful to us at Pleasant Hill Elementary. Adina Wexelburg-Clouser has always there to help with anything we need for our fundraiser. She goes the extra mile, even flying down to South Carolina to spend the day with us at our "Miles for Smiles" event and thanking the students in person. Adina is more than just a colleague she is a friend.
I think that Smile Train needs to continue on the same path going forward. Their model is working. I was able to see it first hand, when I accompanied Smile Train to Indonesia. This trip provided me the opportunity to see Smile Train in action. I met with doctors, patients, families and was able to view several operations. What an amazing experience!