Fall 2016 Newsletter

Dear Friends:

As 2016 draws to a close, I have reviewed the accomplishments of Alliance for Smiles during this last year.  I want to share with you my feelings about our work and how honored I am to be the Board Chair of this great organization.  Everyone who supports us is so valuable, and I am grateful.  However, none of our work could be done without financial support so I am also asking you, as the year draws to a close, to consider making a donation which will fund our work into 2017.

Let’s look back at some of our accomplishments.  Through your support we have been able to do the following:

  • Our wonderful nursing committee under the leadership of Annette Hall created the materials for a course on nursing that was delivered to nurses in Bangladesh this last January.  28 nurses attended the two day seminar and received certificates of completion which we have heard grace the walls of their respective homes. With this short seminar, the nursing practices in Gazipur have been dramatically improved.
  • We completed eight full medical missions this year in addition to Educational Missions to our established Treatment Center sites. We dealt with the immediate need, and also educated local medical professionals in plastic surgery and nursing as well as developing speech, orthodontia, and other multi-disciplinary programs.
  • We will treat our 6000th patient early in 2017. What an accomplishment!
  • We expanded our efforts to Nigeria where we had huge support from the local hospital with plans for our first Treatment Center outside of China. We are also actively examining the possibility of a center in Myanmar with expansion to new locations in that country.
  • Our fabulous volunteers, who give so much to the organization, allow us to function with minimal office staffing and low overhead. The value of donated medical services in our 12 year history is over $26,000,000!
  • We were recognized by the Chinese consulate in San Francisco with a special reception for our supporters and the expressed commitment of China to our work in that country.
  • Our in-country partners, whether in China, Myanmar, Nigeria or Bangladesh, have demonstrated huge commitment to AfS which is so extremely important to our being able to work effectively and with enough patient recruitment.
  • As always our Rotary supporters function so well both as both financial contributors and facilitators in several of our locations.

Most importantly:  WE CHANGE LIVES!!!  I am personally asking you to give generously before the end of the year and help our efforts! We can have all the most noble intentions on the face of the earth, but without funding we simply cannot move forward.  You are all the best!! Have a wonderful holiday season with all the joys associated with being with family and friends.

With Gratitude,

Karl Wustrack MD
Board Chair, Alliance for Smiles

Trip Report: Ilorin, Nigeria

Alliance for Smiles kicked off the new year with our first trip of 2016 to Ilorin, Nigeria.  All of our patients are special, but the team couldn’t forget one particular story.  A family came to us with their eldest son Abdulrahman. They are nomads, meaning they roam from pasture to pasture with their cattle for their livelihood. Six year old Abdulrahman is home schooled by his mother Adama. The other nomad children accept him and play with him, but often tease him because of his cleft lip. His father and mother were eager to have their son’s lip repaired.

Abdulrahman’s family traveled many hours to see the Alliance for Smiles team operating at Ilorin General Hospital. His mother told us that when he was born, they thought he was a demon and possessed. She did not breastfeed him, and in many ways, hoped he would go away. But soon after birth, she fell in love with Abdulrahman and embraced him.  Abdulrahman received surgery from Alliance for Smiles, and now lives a life free from isolation and ridicule!

Nursing Seminar in Gazipur, Bangladesh

Later in January, a very special team visited Gazipur, Bangladesh. During this mission, we conducted the first ever AfS Nursing Seminar. Volunteer nurses and a dental hygienist from the United States and Australia traveled to Bangladesh a few days prior to the rest of the team to share their knowledge with 29 members of the local nursing staff. The two day program focused on the special complications that often accompany cleft lip and palate procedures. The curriculum included emergency protocols, instruments used in cleft surgery, standards of care, and dental considerations.

After the seminar, the full surgical team arrived and conducted a standard medical mission.  They performed 82 procedures on 77 patients!

The 11th Annual AfS Gala

In March, we held our 11th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Gala.  Volunteers, supporters and donors came from all around the world to support our annual fundraising effort.  It was an emotional evening as we honored our former President and CEO Anita Stangl, who dedicated over a decade to ensuring Alliance for Smiles’ success.

We also honored surgeon Dr. Billy De Shazo with the Volunteer of the Year Award.  Dr. De Shazo has been on 11 AfS missions, and he performed the surgery featured on the next page! The John Uth Memorial Award for Significant Financial Support was given to STOP Cleft International Alliance, an organization that has generously funded, and continues to fund, many AfS missions.

Alliance for Smiles In China

Alliance for Smiles visited China five times in 2016, with missions to the cities of Changzhi, Taijiang, Chifeng, Xingyi, and Wenzhou. On these missions we changed the lives of over 300 children and their families!

We would love to share a touching story about a baby girl named Yatong that visited us in April in Changzhi. Before Yatong’s birth her mother and father had been experiencing hardship due to the tough economic times. When they learned that their precious first daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip they were devastated, since they knew fixing this would require a surgery that the family would not be able to afford. Fortunately, the father heard through his brother that AfS was coming to Changzhi. He was immediately filled with excitement and rushed to the hospital to sign up his daughter for the life-changing surgery. In fact, they were one of the very first to show up to our opening clinic! Dr. Billy De Shazo (our 2016 Volunteer of the Year) took the helm and beautifully performed Yatong’s surgery.

Lead nurse Rosemary Welde had a particularly moving first-hand encounter with Yatong and her family. Rosemary explained that the mother was very anxious in the waiting room, and at one time was crying with excitement about the new future that her daughter would have. After witnessing the handoff of Yatong to her mother, Rosemary revealed that she would never forget the mother’s look of wonder and excitement as the baby was brought to her from the recovery room. Upon revisiting the family the next day, the father continued to express his gratitude to the AfS team for providing this once in a lifetime opportunity.

A smaller Treatment Center Team also attended the mission in Changzhi, China. Among the eight members of this teaching team was Sally Peterson-Falzone, the AfS lead Speech Pathologist, and Colleen Hom, a Speech Pathologist who is new to AfS. Speech Therapy is an essential component of the Alliance for Smiles philosophy of comprehensive care for cleft patients, and Sally is highly respected in her field.

In Changzhi, Sally and Colleen had the privilege to lead a seminar on the importance of speech therapy to a cleft child’s recovery. The seminar was attended by local medical professionals, as well as representatives from all five of the AfS Treatment Centers in China.

Trip Report: Yangon, Myanmar

In October, we conducted our fourth mission to Yangon, Myanmar.  This mission was very special because it was dedicated to the memory of Wilber Breseman, an Alliance for Smiles volunteer and supporter who passed away in July 2016.  Wilber participated in 19 medical missions with us, so there is no more fitting tribute to him than a mission in his memory.  Wilber always put in the extra effort in countless ways, which is one of the reasons he was so beloved.

One story from this mission show how important that extra effort can be:

The Yangon Rotary Club’s administrative assistant Tahnee Wade was attending a Pagoda Festival in Shwe Kyin, a town approximately 4 hours away from Yangon. While there, Tahnee came across a young man with a noticeable cleft lip. It wasn’t until later in the day that she remembered AfS was scheduled to begin a mission in Yangon the next day. She felt she had lost the opportunity to put the young man in touch with AfS. All that day Tahnee looked for him, and as if it was destiny she later ran across the young man, who was named Pyae Phyo Aung, sitting on a horse cart right in front of her car! Tahnee obtained his contact information, and told him how he could find AfS. The next day Pyae came to Victoria Hospital to be screened by the AfS team. Pyae’s surgery was performed successfully the very next day!

Mark Your Calendars!

2017 Chinese New Year Celebration

On Wednesday February 1st from 5 to 8pm AfS will host a party celebrating Chinese New Year.  Join us at our office in San Francisco for this complimentary event to help celebrate our achievements and welcome in the year of the Rooster!  Hors d’oeuvres, wine, and soft drinks will be served.

12th Annual Appreciation Gala

Our 12th Annual Gala event will take place on Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 at the  Intercontinental Hotel in downtown San Francisco.  Please save the date for this special evening!  If you would like to receive a hard copy invitation, please email events@allianceforsmiles.org. Tables of 10 seats purchased before February 14th will be discounted at $1,500.  After that tables will be priced at $1,750.  Individual tickets are $175.  Please consider sponsoring a table for your company, family, or friends.

Congratulations and Thank You

We want to send a huge congratulations to board vice-chair Rosemary Welde (pictured right) who was just named the Stanford Healthcare Employee of the Year! Rosemary was chosen out of over 7,000 Stanford employees. This is a huge honor and well-deserved for someone who works as hard as Rosemary.

Please join us in welcoming our two new board members: Jordan Kangand John Wong. Jordan is a senior manager at Clorox Company and is Past President of the Association of Korean Adoptees SF.  John Wong was a Co-Owner of Nacht & Lewis Architects and is Co-Founder of the John and Margaret Wong Foundation, which aims to promote cultural exchange between the US and China.

Thank You to our partners and major funders for making our work possible:
The China Population Welfare Foundation, Family Planning Commission of China, STOP Cleft International Alliance, Shanghai CiGuang Skin Health Foundation, Rotary International, and Rotary Districts and Clubs.

We would also like to thank the following for their in-kind donations:
Globus Relief, US WorldMeds, Covidien, Americares, MAP International, SkyPark, Mark Gendron and JK Cellars, Dave Crosby and Danceworks.

All photos in this issue have been uploaded by Irving Stowers to: flickr.com/photos/allianceforsmiles/collections