ALLIANCE FOR SMILES is changing lives and smiles around the world again, kicking off a return to in-person medical missions for children with cleft lips and palates in Asia and Central America.
We do this transformative work because no child should ever face abandonment, abuse, or worse for being born with a treatable medical condition.
Thankfully, surgical interventions are recognized by financial experts at the World Bank to be among the most cost-effective ways to direct donor funds with each dollar having a ten-fold impact to improve lives.
AfS also equips and trains local medical teams to provide long-term care for cleft patients, their families, and communities, both remotely via the Virtual Education Initiative and in-person during medical missions. Read on to learn more about our work on these programs and more!
First Mission Since Pandemic: Guatemala
THIS SPRING marked AfS’ cautious but exciting return to the field for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. AfS takes health and safety seriously, and every precaution was taken so that the traveling team that arrived in Retalhuleu, Guatemala would not expose themselves nor the local team or patients at Hospital Hilario Galindo to risk. To test the new COVID-19 prevention protocol, AfS had a slightly smaller team and shorter mission, treating 40 kids and performing 43 surgeries.
One of the children AfS met in Guatemala was Mia. She was a sweet and playful three-month old child whose own parents rejected and abandoned her due to her cleft lip. Luckily, Mia was taken in by her grandmother, who learned an AfS team was on its way to Guatemala. Mia received comprehensive surgery and will likely never even know she had a cleft condition. You can see a full video about Mia here: allianceforsmiles.org/mia. Thanks to her grandmother, the AfS team, and all the donors and volunteers who make this work possible, Mia’s life will be better, brighter, and full of opportunity and acceptance.
A Warm Welcome For AfS In Gazipur
IN OCTOBER, an incredible team of AfS volunteers transformed children’s lives at Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Medical College Hospital (STAMCH) in Gazipur, Bangladesh. The team screened 115 children and completed 85 surgeries and 44 dental procedures on 68 patients. That’s a total of $343,321 in
donated medical services made possible by the supporters and volunteers of AfS.
The AfS team has been providing remote training to local medical teams in Bangladesh for several years, and took this fantastic opportunity to provide face to face vocational training. The local staff are passionate about learning and showed inspiring enthusiasm to cultivate their expertise.
Thank you to the local team at STAMCH the AfS volunteers, Shahid Aziz and Smile Bangladesh, and all the Rotary Clubs and donors who made this mission possible through your generosity and compassion. A special thanks goes to Mission Director Barbara Fisher, for all her amazing work over the years for the children AfS serves.
NIGHT OF SMILES: LOOKING BACK AND AHEAD
“BACK IN FULL BLOOM” was the theme of the 2022 Night of Smiles gala in honor of the first in-person surgical mission since the pandemic began and the first in-person gala in years. Hotel Nikko, where it was held on Saturday, April 30, was bursting with flowers and filled with the happy smiles of people from across the AfS community reuniting after many years.
There were incredible performances from talented musicians and dancers, fabulous auction and raffle prizes, and inspiring speakers. However, the highlight was recognizing and celebrating a few individuals who’ve gone above and beyond in their work with AfS and for the children it serves. Here are this year’s award winners:
Volunteer of the Year Award
DR. CHIH-CHEN FANG,
Lifetime Achievement Award
LINDA STEWART & DOUG BERRY,
John Uth Memorial Award for Significant Financial Support
Thanks to them and all of you, we surpassed our gala’s fundraising goal, which makes more surgeries possible.
We hope to see you at our next gala on Saturday, May 6, 2023 at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, CA.
EAST COAST EVENTS FOR CHILDREN’S SMILES
EVEN though the AfS office is based on the west coast, Board Member and Mission Director Tina Fischlin has been making magic happen on the east coast for years.
Earlier this year, Tina and her husband Mike, along with Debbie and Ronnie Kent hosted their 14th annual Dining for Smiles BBQ fundraiser, also attended by Executive Director Jessica Hansen and Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Rhodes. Alliance for Smiles supporters came out in record numbers post-COVID to support this event. It featured an array of silent auction items, a live auction that included a BBQ dinner for 20 people, a private dinner party catered by Cindy Lutini, and a Pet Portrait donated by local artist Gail Vail. The highlight of the evening was the call to sponsor a child with $12,000 being raised. At the end of the day over $60K was raised to directly support AfS missions.
In October, Tina and Mike held a fundraising tournament at West Lake Country Club called the Rotary Club of Columbia County: Golf Fore A Child! They raised over $18,000 for Child Enrichment and Alliance For Smiles! Tina and AfS send their deepest thanks to all the Sponsors & Players!
Virtual Education Initiative
REMOTE training has proven to be an inexpensive and effective way to deliver comprehensive medical education to local teams around the world and it’s had other deeply important benefits. It’s encouraged AfS volunteers and international partners to interact in ways that promote social connection and camaraderie, it’s created safe and friendly environments to ask questions, and it’s helped make surgical missions even smoother and more productive.
The VEI continues to grow in the number of courses offered and countries reached. AfS recently began training a highly engaged medical team in Porto-Novo, Benin, and we’ve continued excellent programming with teams across Asia, Central America, and Africa.
“Providing virtual education has been incredibly rewarding. We were able to emphasize patient & family education, nursing, & medical care of the patients after surgery.”
– Nan Madden, VEI Nurse Educator