I am Husenappa from Raichur and have been associated with the Smile Train program at M. K. Bhandari Hospital for the past 11 years as an outreach worker. Over these years, I have met many children born with clefts and have felt disheartened every time I see them struggle with basic activities such as speaking or eating, that are essential to leading a normal life. The desire to help these children get a new smile and a healthy life has motivated me to serve them for these 11 years.
Smile Train is a blessing for children with clefts, born to families who cannot afford the cost of cleft surgery and related treatment. Identifying cleft patients and getting them to our hospital for treatment is more than a job for me, it is a social responsibility to help someone live a happy life.
As a program coordinator, I reach out to patients in remote areas, to inform them about the treatment for clefts and convince them that cleft surgeries are available, free of cost. Each time I tell parents about the free treatment, the reaction from them is priceless! Being the first point of contact for these families helps me develop a bond and I ensure that I stay in constant touch with them to provide further guidance and counseling.
At times, it’s difficult to get the children to the hospital for treatment as their parents are reluctant to get the kids operated. Lack of proper education and awareness about clefts is a major roadblock for these families, to access proper care. Parents often believe in myths that a surgery will deteriorate the health of their child, making it difficult to convince them to get their child treated.
The best part of my journey is the satisfaction of seeing these children grow up normally and lead fulfilling lives. I feel very happy when I meet our former patients, years later, and hear their experiences and stories of transformation. There is no greater joy in life than knowing you are helping transform children’s lives and these beautiful smiles and blessings add to that warm emotion.
Husenappa is an outreach worker at Smile Train partner hospital, M.K Bhandari Hospital, at Raichur, Karnataka. He has been associated with the program for the past 11 years.