As a young girl, in my twenties, I am often more than happy in the comfort of my workplace. But recently, I got an opportunity to experience something that I never thought could help me grow and understand so much more!
I visited the Smile Train program at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, Bengaluru where I not only saw the programs firsthand, but had an opportunity to spend time with children and their parents who were participating in a Speech Therapy Camp at the hopsital. I have been following Smile Train’s work for a few months now, and was already well acquainted with the problems that children born with clefts face and the transformational change that cleft surgery brings to the lives of the children. But through this visit, I understood the challenges many children with clefts face and how this affects the quality of their lives. Post cleft surgery, many children with treated palates may still face difficulties with their speech and are unable to pronounce a few letters and words correctly. Speech therapy sessions by Smile Train help them overcome these challenges and ensure complete rehabilitation for the children.
The session I attended was fun, like the summer camps we used to attend as children. Through fun activities, the sessions helped children improve their speech post cleft surgeries, and it was wonderful to see how they were taught this through simple everyday situations such as shopping.
I was pleasantly surprised to find children not only from Karnataka, but also from Andhra Pradesh, participating in the sessions. Meeting Aparna, Smile Train’s partner speech-language pathologist was also an enriching experience. She explained how the sessions were aimed at providing individual attention to the children, as well as encouraging them to interact with other children and their parents in order to boost their confidence and ingrain social skills in them.
Thanks to the efforts of Aparna and her team, it seemed as if the children were speaking effortlessly. The children were asked to name and pretend to purchase different items from makeshift shops, and every time a child pronounced a word right, a bright smile lit up his/her face. As I looked around the room, I could see the beaming faces of the parents as they witnessed their children make progress. I cannot imagine how they must have felt looking at how the speech and lives of their children were improving.
That day I left the Smile Train center with a wide smile on my face and a skip in my step, feeling fortunate to be a part of Smile Train’s journey in impacting the lives of many children born with clefts.
As told by Varsha Raja, a Smile Train supporter who got the opportunity to witness a speech therapy summer camp in progress at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, Bengaluru.