Most people know that a sparkling smile goes hand in hand with life in the public eye, and on more than one occasion, I’ve been asked the secret behind it. To get the answer to that question, you’ll have to walk down memory lane with me.
Years ago, long before the limelight found me, I was a student pursuing a degree in public health at Isabella Thoburn College in Lucknow. I had always been interested in healthcare, and it has been my dream to make a difference and create impact in this sector. During this time, I got the opportunity to visit Smile Train partner hospitals, namely Vivekananda Polyclinic and Sushrut Institute of Plastic Surgery in Lucknow. I was curious to know more about the kind of cleft care they provided to their patients, so I spoke to the doctors & nurses about clefts and also met the patients and their families. Seeing those beautiful smiles on children left a deep mark on me. The knowledge that I am now a part of this smile-making endeavour, makes me happy every time I think about it.
There are so many moments that have inspired and moved me since I started supporting Smile Train India’s cause as a Goodwill Ambassador. Right from meeting Smile Train's team for the first time and being awed by their passion towards comprehensive cleft care, to meeting industry stalwarts like Kiran Bedi and Padma Shri Deepa Malik — I cherish every second of this journey. There were instances when I could not speak the language of the local cleft kids during awareness events, and yet, we connected with each other through smiles. This is why I have aligned myself with Smile Train, for their sincere efforts and phenomenal achievements in cleft care resonate with my values of doing your bit to spread happiness and change lives. Smile Train is now like family to me.
As a public personality, I have realized that people often look up to you and are influenced by your opinions. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you utilize your platform to add value to your voice, and be a role model for the changemakers of tomorrow. I think that achieving fame and success is all for nothing if one cannot use them to promote a good cause and set an example for others to follow suit. I know that I am fortunate enough to be in a position of privilege, where I can extend a helping hand to those in need and also ask society at large to lend me their ears when I speak about cleft care. So I will continue to do everything in my power and use my reach to the best of my abilities to spread smiles across India.
Today, as we applaud the women of the world on International Women’s Day, I want little girls and young women everywhere to remember that we are not fragile dolls who need to be taken care of. We are women: we create, shape, and transform lives! Nothing — not our upbringing, not the expectations on our shoulders and not even patriarchy — can stop us from taking charge of our lives. I look around myself and see leaders, right from the women who support Smile Train to the little girls with clefts who are growing up to be courageous, independent young women. If you look closely enough, you will see that they are all around you as well — and every last one of them has a story that will bring a smile to your face.
As told by Vartika Singh, Miss Diva Universe 2019 and Smile Train India’s Goodwill Ambassador. Vartika has been our staunch supporter and is passionate about spreading smiles on the faces of children born with clefts. She holds a Master's degree in Public health from the University of Lucknow and uses her platform and influence to spread awareness about clefts in India.