Alliance for Smiles Celebrates 15 Years of “Repairing Children’s Smiles” Around the World

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Alliance for Smiles Celebrates 15 Years of “Repairing Children’s Smiles” Around the World

San Francisco based nonprofit markanniversary & kicks off milestone year with Gala Saturday, April 6

Missions this year will establish and further cleft palate centers in 
China, Egypt, Guatemala, Mynamar and The Philippines

www.allianceforsmiles.org  

27 March 2019 – San Francisco, CA: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,” opines Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh“But sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” This is not news to Alliance for Smiles (www.allianceforsmiles.orgthe esteemed San Francisco-based nonprofit that provides free comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate anomalies in under-served areas of the world. On Saturday, April 6 the practical wisdom and miracle-making gift of a youthful smile will be celebrated at the 15th annual “Night of Smiles” Gala (Julia Morgan Ballroom, 465 California Street San Francisco) and kick off an unprecedented series of international trips to China, The PhilippinesNigeriaBangladesh and for the first time, EgyptThe Republic of Congo, Honduras and Guatemala.


“Our mission is repairing children’s smiles,” said Alison Healy, Executive Director for Alliance for Smiles. “It is impossible not be to touched, moved and renewed in spirit by the smiles of the young people we heal. What we celebrate this year is their success. What we are committed to for the next 15 years and beyond, is expanding our work, and educating the public about the long road faced by our patients.”

A cleft lip occurs when the lip does not quite close during the child’sdevelopment before birth and needs to be surgically closed. A cleft palate occurs during the same period when there is an opening or cleft in the roof of the mouth.  It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every three minutes with a cleft — about one in 500-750 births. While such anomalies all need to be corrected by surgery, in first world countries such options are readily available and affordable. However, in developing countries, this is often not the case. Alliance for Smiles exists to fill this need.

“We’ve all seen the ads supporting groups that perform this incredible work,” continues Healy. “However, sometimes such compelling images can be deceiving, in the appearance of a fully healed child. Most of the young people with whom we work will require multiple surgeries andtreatments and also socialization over many years. Sadly, in some of the countries most in need of our efforts, being born with a cleft lip or palate not only means pain and difficulty, but it can also mean ostracization and sometimes, even death.”  

In October 2004, Alliance for Smiles was founded by five members of the Rotary Club of San Francisco: Past Presidents, John Uth, Anita Stangl, Jim Patrick, and Jim Deitz and long-time Club Member John Goings. The ongoing support of the Rotary International Community is still key to the success of Alliance for Smiles. Fondly known as “people of action”, Rotarians associated with Alliance for Smiles hope to eventually setting up multi-disciplinary international cleft treatment centers in underserved countries around the world, and exchange ideas on proper medical techniques and procedures


“Traditional international efforts to repair cleft lips and palates have consisted of small teams that perform surgical procedures to correct defects,” Healy says. “However, the initial surgery only addresses one part of the problem. Cleft patients require ongoing treatment in the disciplines of dentistry, orthodontia, speech therapy and sometimes psychological counseling.”

According to Healy, time and funding constraints in target countriestypically make it next to impossible to address those needs. 

“Even if information, expertise and treatment were available, it would pose a financial burden on the families of our target population,” Healy summed up. “The budgets of these families are already strained by their basic daily needs for food and shelter.”

To respond to the immediate need, Alliance for Smiles conducts two-week surgical missions. They also provide advanced training for local health care providers who are dedicated to the treatment of under-served cleft lip and palate patients. Additionally, Alliance for Smiles has establishedpermanent treatment centers where patients can receive follow-up and ongoing care, utilizing the same treatment protocols used in the United States.

In addition to raising funds, the April 6th Gala will honor a number of volunteers with the organization: Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr. Karin VargervikVolunteer of the Year – Becky Steed, RNJohn Uth Memorial Award for Significant Financial Support – Dr. Chih-Chen Fang.