So many of us are blessed with college educations, good health care and skills we nurture to help provide for our families. Americans earn an average annual income of more than $40,000 while many families we meet abroad live on one or two dollars a day, sometimes less. Sharing our resources and abilities with impoverished, deformed children and training local doctors is how we do our part to help others.
About cleft lip/ palate deformity
Millions of children in impoverished countries suffer with the cleft lip/palate deformity, which occurs when the upper lip or roof of the mouth does not close during pregnancy. This developmental deformity leads to despair and social isolation for the patient, often leaving no hope. This can bring about further poverty. In impoverished countries, the majority of families cannot afford to have this terrible deformity corrected. For a relatively small cost ($275), we can bring hope from despair, changing a life along the way.
In addition to helping today's patients, we focus on helping those of tomorrow by training local surgeons on techniques so they may perform surgeries with expertise. Our long-term goal is to teach others to do what we do so the region can take care of its own. Once this goal is reached, Free to Smile Foundation doctors and volunteers find new sites in impoverished lands for cleft lip/palate repairs and surgical hands-on training.
Dental disease has been linked to infection, malnutrition, weight loss, cardiovascular disease and an overall reduced quality of life. Often times in developing countries, the concept of dentistry is unknown or absent and these children and adults have a complete lack of dental care, leading to the aforementioned consequences. With continued dental care and education it has been shown that the dental health and education of a studied population can be improved dramatically. This addition of comprehensive dental care to complement Free to Smile Foundations cleft care leads to an overall improved health and well-being of our patients.
Why we go
Foundation volunteers treat so much more than the physical deformity. They eliminate potential consequences of untreated cleft lip/palate malformation:
- Nutritional challenges
- Speech problems
- Social stigma
- Low self esteem
- Isolation, which can lead to further poverty
What's more, we're committed to training local doctors to be proficient at these surgeries. When they can do it on their own, then we've done our job.
Respect local customs
We feel it's important to honor the local customs of the regions we visit.
Even though we offer free medical care to underprivileged countries, we are their guests.
As ambassadors of the United States a nation of nations we represent America abroad and aim to do so with respect.
Far more than a cosmetic correction
If not corrected, many with cleft lip/palate deformities will be ostracized from their villages because others believe they carry bad karma or are inhabited by evil spirits and/or are being punished by something they did in a past life. In these impoverished areas where bartering is a way of life, it's critical for members of the community to stay in the village and contribute to society. A repaired cleft lip/palate deformity helps children acclimate back into their communities.