Skip to main content

Volunteer Medical Mission from San Francisco Heads to Guatemala to Restore Smiles to Young People Suffering Cleft Palate Anomalies

Media contact: David Perry & Associates, Inc. (415) 767-1067 /

Volunteer Medical Mission from San Francisco Heads to Guatemala to
Restore Smiles to Young People Suffering Cleft Palate Anomalies

Cross border partnerships will restore children’s smiles 

10 September 2019, San Francisco, CAA volunteer mission of doctors, nurses and medical assistants led by the San Francisco based international organization, Alliance For Smiles ( will depart from San Francisco Saturday, September 14 to provide renewed smiles to 80 children with cleft palate in Guatemala.  The 19-person mission sponsored by Rotary Fairlawn in New Jersey in partnership with Rotary Guatemala Sur will be held at Hospital Hilario Galindo in San Felipe Retalhuleu, Guatemala September 14 – 21, 2019. The mission to provide free cleft palate surgery and treatment for Guatemalan children will also include a dental hygiene clinic and free reading glasses for patients and parents.

“During this time of hardship for many Central American children, we are very happy to be coordinating our first medical mission to Central America which will literally help over 100 children recover their smiles,” said Alison Healy, Executive Director Alliance For Smiles.  “This mission is an example of the good that can be done with strong commitment and dedication to the welfare of children and collaboration and partnership across borders.”

The collaboration to launch this mission included the support of the Guatemalan General Consul and public service announcements from Guatemalan Radio and TV Nuevo Mundo.  Extensive outreach support to reach children in need was also carried out by international, United States and Guatemalan organizations, including: Rotary Club of San Francisco, Rotary International, Rotary Guatemala Sur, Rotary Fairlawn, Maya Health Alliance, Hospital Hilario Galindo, Tess Unlimited, International Esperanza Project, Floating Doctors and the Golden Gate Lions Club.

“Thank you Alliance for Smiles for giving Guatemalan children with cleft palate the possibility to show their face without feeling shame, without feeling different,” said Sylvia Wohlers Gomar de Meie, Guatelamalan Consul General in San Francisco. “Thank you for allowing them to talk, laugh and eat without difficulty.  It is not a new face that they will have, it is the opportunity to lead a normal life, full of opportunities.”

Providing services in Guatemala is challenging due to the hard-to-reach mountainous regions.  Additionally, newborns that can benefit from early treatment are often undernourished and therefore cannot receive surgery until they are given two months of formula in advance of treatment. Local organizations and Guatemalan Radio and TV Nuevo Mundo have been reaching out for months in advance to children in need from all parts of Guatemala.  Patients range in age from newborns to late teens. 

$80,000 was raised by Rotary Fairlawn to support the mission, which includes room and board at the hospital for children and their parents for the duration of the mission. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every three minutes with a cleft palate – about 1 in 750 births. 

“Thank you for changing the lives of so many children and making it possible for them to give besos to their love ones,” said Honorary Consul General for Guatemala Carlos Afre. “As one teenager said after the operation, ‘Now I can Kiss!’”

Alliance for Smiles (AfS) is a San Francisco-based global non-profit organization that provides free comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate anomalies in under-served areas of the world. AfS, which has galvanized medical professionals and volunteers to repair children’s broken smiles in 15 countries since it began in 2004, has helped more than 7,000 children worldwide. To provide sustainable care, AFS partners with communities to establish treatment centers that provide the comprehensive patient treatment cleft palate correction requires over time, including up to 10 operations over many years in a child’s life.  Learn more at: