CLEFT HELPLINE – 1800 103 8301

Frequently Asked Questions

Girl from india

About Cleft

What is cleft?

Cleft is a facial birth difference where there is a gap in the lip and/or the palate (roof of the mouth). A cleft occurs when certain body parts do not fuse together during pregnancy.

Is India the only country affected by clefts?

Cleft is one of the most common birth defects and 1 in 700 children are born with cleft lip and/or palate globally. Every year an estimated 35,000+ new babies in India and 200,000+ new babies globally are born with a cleft. Without treatment, these children face difficulties in eating, breathing, hearing and speaking. However, patients from economically weaker backgrounds often lack information about the treatment and can’t afford the cost of surgery.

What causes cleft?

In most cases, it is difficult to determine what caused a cleft, but most experts agree that clefts occur due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Research is ongoing to better understand the condition. As a cleft is one of the most common birth differences, it is important to note that an expectant mother can avoid all of the potential risk factors and still have a baby with a cleft.

What are the problems faced by the cleft affected individuals?

Clefts cause difficulties in eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking. Without cleft treatment these babies can experience:

  • Isolation and often face prejudice in their communities. No child deserves to feel like an outcast.
  • Becoming malnourished due to problems eating. This can result in starvation, and even death.
  • Chronic ear infections. This can result in permanent hearing loss.
  • Struggling to speak and express themselves. This can result in a lifetime of anxiety and depression.

Is there any age limit for cleft surgeries?

No, there is no age bar for cleft surgery, it can be treated at any age. However, ideal age for the lip surgery is 3-6 months of age and palate surgery is 9-18 months of age.

Why does Smile Train focus on clefts?

Instead of doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that like many other NGOs, Smile Train decided to choose one specific problem that affects children and try to solve it.

We chose clefts because:

  • By focusing on clefts, we can be much more effective and productive - we work with many cleft surgeons, hospitals, charities, research programs and educational institutions around the world.
  • Clefts are a significant problem affecting the lives of millions of very poor children.
  • The cure for clefts has already been found: a safe surgery can take as little as 45 minutes can transform a child's life.
  • The impact of cleft surgery is dramatic, immediate, and permanent! This is one of the best low-cost, high impact interventions in the world - a true modern day medical miracle that changes a child's life forever
  • Once a cleft is treated, it never comes back!

About Smile Train India

What is Smile Train India?

Smile Train is an international organisation (NGO), which supports cleft treatment for patients from economically weaker sections of society who cannot afford to pay for the surgery/treatment.

When was Smile Train India started?

Smile Train India operations started in 2000 and in the last 20+ years, Smile Train has supported more than 6.5 lakh cleft surgeries through a network of 150 partner hospitals across India. 

Smile Train is New York headquartered NGO which was founded in 1999. Since then, Smile Train has grown into the world's leading cleft charity, helping more than 2 million desperately poor children with clefts in 95+ countries, training thousands of medical professionals and establishing hundreds of programs across the world.

What is Smile Train's vision?

Smile Train's vision is a world where every person has access to high-quality comprehensive cleft care and is able to live a full and healthy life.

Who is leading Smile Train India?

Ms. Mamta Carroll, Senior Vice President and Regional Director, Asia. For more information, you can visit:

Learn more about Smile Train India team:

Learn more about Smile Train India Advisory Council:

Is Smile Train different from other cleft organizations?

Smile Train is the largest cleft-focused global NGO with a sustainable model of treatment through empowering local medical professionals. Since our founding in 1999, Smile Train has supported more cleft surgeries than all other global charities combined. The traditional mission model of flying doctors in for short-term treatment programs is NOT cost effective or sustainable. Smile Train has always championed partnering directly with local hospitals to strengthen health systems and empower local medical professionals to offer surgical services and comprehensive cleft care to children in their own communities. Supporting Smile Train gives a child access to a full range of cleft treatment services they would otherwise never receive and ultimately the opportunity for a better quality of life.

Where all is Smile Train working in India?

Smile Train in India has programs in 29 states and UTs

About Donating

Is Smile Train India a registered charity?

Smile Train India is registered as Not-for-profit company under the Indian Companies Act 1956. We are also registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act 2010 (FCRA).

Does Smile Train India accept cash donations?

Smile Train India does not accept any cash donations.

Are donations to Smile Train India tax exempt?

Yes – all donations to Smile Train India are 50% exempt from tax under section 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961 vide certificate no. AANCS2695FF2014 dated 28 May 2021 (vide 11- Clause (i) of first proviso to Sub-section (5) of section 80G) and valid till 31 March 2026 as issued by the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax. Tax exemption is valid only in India.

What all information is required for claiming tax benefit or 80G?

Name, Full Address with Pin code, PAN, Email/ Mobile

How will I get a tax exemption certificate for my donation?

We will send across your donation receipt by email and this receipt is eligible for tax exemption and can be shared with the Income Tax authorities. If you would like to receive your tax receipt by post, please email us with your details at or call us at 011-49295700.

  • If you are a one-time donor – you will receive tax benefit within 30 days of your donation.
  • if you are a monthly/regular donor – you will only receive accumulated tax receipt. For monthly receipts – please email us at or call us at 011-49295700.

Are my online donation transactions secure?

Absolutely. We have stringent security measures in place to ensure that critically sensitive information, such as your personal information and your credit/debit card details, are protected. These measures include:

  • Encrypting all your personal information before being transmitted over the Internet. This guarantees that your information is inaccessible to any third party.
  • Using industry standard SSL Encryption Technology for data encryption.
  • Using PCI- DSS compliant payment gateways.

Is my banking information (Credit/Debit Card details/ Bank account number etc.) stored by Smile Train India?

No, Smile Train India does not store any financial details of our donors. We use PCI-DSS compliant payment gateways, and your details are as secure as with your bank.

How do I update my contact details?

If you have changed your postal address, contact phone number, email address or any other personal details, kindly write to or call us at 011-49295700

What is a Monthly giving or Regular Giving program?

A monthly giving or regular giving program is a recurring donation plan that allows donors to automatically donate a specified amount to an organization each month through eNACH/ eMandate process.

How do I become a monthly donor?

You can simply click on the link and donate using your bank account. The amount chosen by you will be setup as a direct debit to your bank account through our eNACH or eMandate process and will be auto debited each month on the date chosen by you.

What is eNACH?

eNACH is the electronic process of helping the banks, financial institutions and other government bodies to provide automated payment services. Once the user signs the eNACH or electronic NACH form, he gives permission to the concerned authority to debit the said amount from his bank every fixed day of the month.

What is eMandate?

eMandate is a digital payment service initiated by RBI and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). It serves as an underlying infrastructure for businesses or NGOs in India to collect recurring payments without any human intervention. A mandate is a standard instruction that you provide to your issuing bank and other institutions allowing them to automatically debit the mentioned amount from your bank account.

What do you mean by Until Cancellation/cancelled?

Until cancelled is an option in the monthly or regular donation program that allows the donors to donate without any predetermined fixed time frame and you can decide over the tenure of their support to the organization. We want your support for long time, and we would request you to continue for years if you can. But since it is the voluntarily contribution, so you can cancel your Direct Debit at any time by simply contacting Smile Train.

I haven't received my tax benefit certificate.

We only send our tax benefit receipts to donors who have disclosed their PAN, address, name, and email. If you have provided these details andstill haven’t received your tax receipt, please email us at or call us at 011-49295700. We shall send you the receipt within 48 hours.

I haven't provided my PAN or full address while donating, can I still update it and claim tax benefit?

Yes, you can. You can provide us with your details over email at or call us at 011-49295700 and we shall provide you with the tax benefit certificate. Please Note – For any financial year, the tax receipt can be only issued up till 31st March.

My PAN details are incorrect on the tax receipt, how do I change?

It is the sole responsibility of a donor to furnish correct details and in case if there is any error, the PANCARD details can only be corrected before March 31st. It cannot be changed on any other individual's name. Please email us at or call us at 011-49295700.

I donated on a different name and can I claim the tax benefit on my name?

As per Government of India guidelines, the donor/ donation information cannot be modified once payment is processed.

I am not receiving any updates from Smile Train India.

We share regular updates with all our supporters over email, please check your email settings or SPAM folder. In case, you are still having concerns, please email us at or call us at 011-49295700 and our team will ensure that you start receiving regular updates.

I don't want any further communications from Smile Train India.

We only send you the regular updates about our work, but in case you don't want to receive any further communications, please email us at or call us at 011-49295700.

My money was debited on the website, but I haven't got any acknowledgment from Smile Train India. What do I do?

Don't worry, your money is safe. It usually happens in the device when the frequency of the internet fluctuates, and it is always advised to use safe and secure internet connection while donating.

  • Please email us with your donation details and transaction details at or call us at 011-49295700 and we shall check it for you.
  • In case the money is not received at Smile Train and it's still showing debited, please check with your bank, the refunds are initiated as per their banking rules.

My money has been debited twice on our website by mistake, how do I request for refund?

Please refer to our donation refund and cancellation policy and email us at or call us at 011-49295700. Don't worry, your money is safe.

I am a monthly/regular donor, and my money was debited twice by Smile Train India, how do I request for refund?

Please refer to our donation refund and cancellation policy and email us at or call us at 011-49295700. Don't worry, your money is safe.

I registered as Monthly/ Regular donor, but I am facing the difficulties with my direct debits (the donation is not taking place)?

This usually happens because of technical error, so please email us at or call us at 011-49295700 and we shall get this started for you.

I want to change my donation amount or bank account for the monthly support?

Please reach us through email at or please call us at 011-49295700 and we shall assist you.

How do I modify/cancel/stop my Monthly/ regular donation?

The modification/ cancellation/ stop request must be made 10 working days in advance of the debit date for it to take effect from the following month and requests received later will take effect in the succeeding month. The request should be emailed at

Please refer to our donation refund and cancellation policy and in case of any further queries, please call us at 011-49295700.

I was charged bank charges on my bounced donation; I want a refund.

The charges on donations are usually for bounced transactions and it's charged as per the bank regulations and may vary. We don't incur any charges on any donation and therefore, we can't refund any such charges. Please refer to donor refund and cancellation policy. We advise all our donors to maintain balance before their due debit date.

I don't want to donate monthly; can I just make a one-time donation?

We welcome your decision and your generosity - at any level - will help us provide a Smile Train supported cleft surgery every 5 minutes to help a child in need. Please visit and make your donation now.

How do I know the financials of Smile Train India?

It's easy. You can download our financials from our page.

What percentage of my donation will go to overhead or admin charges for the Smile Train India?

Our goal is to be the most well-managed and cost-efficient charity in the world. Our admin and operational cots are less than 10% of our total expenses. For more information, please visit our page.

You receive fundings from corporates, why do you need individual support.

We do have corporates who supports us but there are many geographies/states, where we are in constant need of support. Every donor is important to us, and we ensure that all donations made by individuals is utilized for cleft treatment in our intervention areas. We also ensure transparency for all the donations made by each donor.

How do I ensure that my money is utilized properly and reaching the beneficiaries?

We provide you with regular updates through our newsletters and case stories to showcase the impact that your donation has made.

Can I donate directly to patients or hospitals?

No, you can donate to Smile Train India and we allocate those funds to the partner hospitals for providing the cleft treatment to most marginalised children.

Can I restrict my donation to help a child of a particular state or gender?

At the present time it is not possible for us to restrict individual donations to specific children. What we can promise you is that we will use your donation to help a child in need who would otherwise never be helped. Your support will have a very dramatic, immediate, and permanent impact on their life. To provide as many surgeries as quickly as possible, Smile Train helps every child that comes to us, regardless of gender and their geographies. We are unable to restrict donations to a specific gender or state.

Can I receive a picture of the specific child I have helped?

A few months after your donation, we will send you a picture and a story of a child we were able to help following your donation. Hopefully you can display the picture in your home or office as a happy reminder that there is a child smiling today thanks to you.

Can I meet the child I am supporting?

A few months after your donation, we will organise a donors visit program, preferably virtual for donors like you to interact with the children and their parents.

Can I get the contact information for a child I saw in one of your marketing materials or I received on email?

Smile Train does not release contact information for the children that we help to maintain their privacy and uphold their patient confidentiality.

How do you ensure safety of the children at your hospitals or during your programs?

All our partner hospitals follow Smile Train’s safety and quality protocol. In addition, we have a child protection policy and all our staff, doctors, associated partners and hospitals abide by the same.

If I know a cleft affected child in/around my locality, where can I refer them?

You can reach out to our national cleft helpline 1800 103 8301 and our helpline officers will guide you through the process and connect the child with the nearest treatment hospital. The best person to guide you about the treatment the surgeon/ cleft team at the Smile Train partner hospital. Smile Train India supports free cleft treatments for underprivileged/needy patients who cannot afford the cost of surgery.


Who does the surgery – which surgeons are appointed by Smile Train India?

Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgeons. All our cleft surgeons are from India and are highly skilled and empanelled with Smile Train. Please visit our website where you will get all information about our cleft work.

How do you ensure that doctors/ surgeons are using best practices?

Smile Train global Medical Advisory Board and India Medical Advisory Council oversee program safety and quality protocols. Regular safety and financial audits are conducted by independent bodies to ensure compliance.

How many hospitals and surgeons are on-boarded with Smile Train India?

We have more than 150+ hospitals and 250+ empanelled doctors at Smile Train India.

What follow-up services does Smile Train provide?

In addition to cleft surgery, comprehensive cleft care services such as nutrition support, speech therapy, orthodontics and secondary follow up surgeries are supported at Smile Train treatment hospitals.

How does Smile Train keep track of the surgeries that are performed?

We use different types of proprietary technology to save money and do things faster, cheaper, and smarter. Instead of mailing patient charts all over the world, we built a digital patient database called Smile Train Express that’s on the Web. Our partners upload all their patient records to us via the Web, which not only saves millions in shipping, handling and storage costs, but also allows us to review and monitor the quality of their work.

What is Smile Train doing to prevent clefts?

Many of the experts in the cleft world are actively investigating etiology and prevention of cleft. We support their work and hope one day they will find a solution. For now, we know there are many factors, including genetics, family history, environment and nutrition which may increase or decrease the likelihood of cleft lip/palate. A few studies have found a potential link between folic acid and cleft lip and/or palate, whereas others have found no correlation. What we do know is that folic acid plays a critical role in embryonic development, before and after conception. Clefts develop very early in the first trimester, and many women may not even know they are pregnant when the cleft is formed, making early intervention difficult. While Smile Train does not have a folic acid distribution program, we work to raise awareness about cleft and treat cleft through surgery and ancillary treatment such as speech therapy and orthodontic treatment.

About Fundraising and Volunteering

Is Smile Train on Facebook or any other social networking sites?

Yes! We're on most popular social networking sites, such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and you can mention us in posts by typing @SmileTrainIndia.

Can I create a personal fundraising page through the Smile Train website?

Completely customizable fundraising pages are hosted on our website. Please visit, and register.

You can upload pictures, descriptions of your fundraiser, see who donated to your fundraiser, post comments and updates, set up a personalized URL to link to your blog or Social Networking web site. To create your customizable online fundraising page, visit and you will be guided through the process.

Does Smile Train need volunteers?

We would love to involve you as a volunteer so you can hold a special fundraiser for us. We will send you a fundraising kit and give you advice and tips along the way. Whether it is sending an email to all your friends, introducing us to your employer or clients, or hosting a fundraiser, all help you can give us is greatly appreciated. To request a fundraising kit, email

I am a school/college/student and want to support Smile Train India?

We would love to involve you and be a part of our cause by raising funds. You can contact us at

I want to support through CSR funds to Smile Train India

Please write into us at