MINERVA BC NEWMAN
Miss Universe Catriona Gray, as Smile Train Global Ambassador visited Kenya, East Africa recently to spread awareness and share the message that “All Smiles are Beautiful” and to help reach more people who can benefit from Smile Train, the world’s leading cleft charity.
In between filming in Mauritius and hosting segments at the Miss Universe South Africa 2021 pageant, Catriona made time to visit Smile Train patients and their families in Kenya. Through her interactions with them, Catriona was able to learn about their cleft care journey and the stigma that cleft lip and palate bring.
At a press conference arranged by Smile Train Africa in Kenya, Catriona Gray appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) to implement birth screenings so that cleft lip and palate can be detected in the early stages of development, enabling both mother and child to receive appropriate care and support.
According to Smile Train that in Africa, 1,300 children are born with cleft issues every year, and 1 out of 10 newborns die due to malnutrition. Despite many who believe cleft is only a cosmetic issue, cleft has serious health implications. Cleft can also affect a child’s ability to breastfeed properly, therefore many suffer from malnutrition.
“It is vital to note that cleft also affects one’s emotional and mental wellbeing. We also ask media to help in demystifying cleft and educating the public that cleft is not the result of a ‘curse’ or ‘witchcraft’, nor is it an indicator of mental disability,” Gray said.
Thus, Smile Train wants to break down the stigma for people who suffer from cleft, as many of those with untreated cleft conditions cannot productively participate in society without being taunted for their appearance.
Smile Train said that across the globe, the organization has a sustainable system focused on solving the problems brought about by cleft lip and palate. Smile Train’s global footprint allows them to partner with local health organizations to provide proper cleft care treatment at no cost to patients.
In addition to life-changing surgery, Smile Train’s local medical partners provide essential cleft care such as speech therapy, emotional support, nutrition services, and orthodontic care to ensure that children can lead full and productive lives.
With the support of its donors and partners around the world, Smile Train has supported safe and quality cleft care for more than 1.5 million children in need for the past 22 years.
In the Philippines, Smile Train has continued to provide comprehensive cleft care even during the pandemic. With the launch of the first Filipino mobile Smile Train Speech App and the Virtual Telehealth Program, Smile Train enabled Filipino patients to join speech therapy sessions from the safety of their homes.
Despite lockdown restrictions, patients still have access to Smile Train’s services and are still able to schedule surgeries in partner hospitals. To learn more about Smile Train’s local programs in the Philippines, please visit smiletrain.ph.