NPO Spotlight: Smile Train is Changing Lives with Each New Smile

Brittany Dickey June 30, 2016 Nonprofits

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This article is part of the NPO Spotlight Series which highlights nonprofits who are doing excellent work. Nonprofits are a key part of our Global Good Network, and we’re consistently creating tools to help build connections between nonprofits and corporate employees.


In India over 72,000 people have a cleft lip or palate (CL/P). The direct causes of CL/P are unknown. However, most scientists believe that the birth defect is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

How CL/P Negatively Effects Children

Pinki before her surgery.

CL/P can cause speech impediments, difficulty eating and, most of all, a stigma that prevents children from getting a higher education.

In Smile Pinki, the Academy Award Winning documentary about a 5-year old girl’s journey to the surgery to fix her cleft lip, Pinki Sonkar stopped attending school when the other students began calling her “split lip” and making fun of her during school.

Unfortunately, this is very common. Nearly half of the population with CL/P don’t finish elementary school because of:

  • Shame
  • Rejection by Teachers
  • Bullying by Peers
  • Speech or Communication Difficulties

Some adults believe that the birth defect is the result of their child’s karma.  Others blame themselves for the birth defect and that guilt causes these parents great embarrassment.

One mother from the documentary said, “I wish God had not given birth to him (her son). That would have been better.”

Another father explained that his central concern was finding his daughter a nice companion: “The main issue is marriage. Where are we going to find a decent boy?”

These children born with CL/P reside in the shadows of their societies and often lack the education that is needed to end the cycle of poverty in their families.

How Smile Train Helps Children with CL/P

Smile Train has partnered with local hospitals in India and other countries to provide free surgery to repair CL/P for children.

Founded in 1999, Smile Train is an international children’s charity with a sustainable approach to a single solvable problem: Cleft Lip/ Palate.

The charity uses the ‘Teach a Man to Fish’ model which focuses on training local doctors to perform CL/P repairs in their communities. The surgery takes 45 minutes and costs approximately $250.00 per surgery.

Smile Train has provided CL/P repair surgery to 450,000 children in India alone over the past 15 years. The children who have received their new smiles over the years are now young adults leading full lives!

Although Pinki, the young girl from the documentary, was initially frightened to receive the surgical procedure, she is more confident now and is learning how to show off her smile.  Smile Train followed up with her in 2013 and confirmed that she was doing well in school, making friends, and living the life that her family once thought was impossible.


Pinki 3
Pinki after her surgery.


How YourCause Helps Children with CL/P

YourCause had the honor of processing $674,146 in donations and matching grants to Smile Train in 2015! This was enough money for 2,697 CL/P surgeries to produce new beautiful smiles!

To learn more about the amazing work Smile Train is doing in several countries, please visit their website!

And if you’re a nonprofit, we have a new tool that allows you to pledge your Sustainable Development Goals in our platform. Over 2,000 charities have already added their impact profile.


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