Our team in Bangladesh recently completed 47,000 free cleft surgeries since Smile Train began its programs back in 2003. This is a historic milestone for us and was possible because of our partner hospitals, doctors, and outreach workers. Our team members, working in various regions, have expanded the program and reached under-served communities in different parts of the country. To supplement their efforts, collaborations with organizations like Square Toiletries Limited and Bangladesh Steel Re-Rolling Mills (BSRM) have played an important role in identifying and mobilizing patients across the country.
It is very encouraging to witness an increase in awareness about clefts amongst people because of the various initiatives that we have been organizing with the help of our partner doctors and outreach workers. Jannat Nur, a former patient, is a living example of how the community in Bangladesh is now aware of our programs and availability of free medical care for cleft lip and palate. Jannat was abandoned simply because she was born with a cleft. Some good samaritans found her crying inside an old building and admitted her at a local hospital in Feni District. The hospital then contacted a charity organization, We Can Change Youth Society, who took responsibility for her care. Through articles published in popular newspapers, Dr. Bijoy Krishna Das, Project Director of Smile Train program at CARe Medical College Hospital, got to know about Jannat. With support from Smile Train, Jannat received the transformational cleft surgery and is now leading a happy and normal life with her new adoptive family.
As a harbinger of change, we are continuously working to strengthen holistic cleft care for children. An important aspect of this is equipping our partner hospitals and doctors with the latest in cleft care, safety, and administrative knowledge. As neighbors, we have exchanged knowledge and participated in collective trainings with India to make a difference in South Asia.
With the success we have witnessed, we are now participating in the ‘Train in India’ program, a new initiative by Smile Train India which aims to provide training and first-hand experience for cleft care givers specializing in various aspects of comprehensive cleft care. Following the launch, orthodontist and speech language pathologist from our partner hospital will be travelling to India to participate in one of the first training sessions under this initiative.
Through these training initiatives and the support that we receive from various partners, we look forward to expanding medical care facilities to include more orthodontists and speech language pathologists here. This has already been initiated at two of our partner hospitals and our efforts are now concentrated to expand the program to all our 30 partner hospitals. Smile Train India will play an important role here, and we look forward to collaborating and sharing their learnings and experiences to provide comprehensive cleft care in Bangladesh.
As we gear up towards the smilestone of 50,000 free cleft surgeries, the journey has indeed been a most satisfying one, for what can be better than helping children get their forever smile!
Mostafizur Rahman is the Country Director of Smile Train Bangladesh and has been associated with the program since 2014. He has 25 years of professional working experience in the humanitarian sector with substantial knowledge and skills in the areas of strategic planning, operational management, program implementation management, monitoring and reporting, training and capacity building, representation and networking with various stakeholders (donors, UN, Government, NGOs and Civil Society). Before joining Smile Train, he had worked with reputed organizations like Save the Children and Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI).