Smile Foundation making difference in lives of children in Western Cape

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Eleven children from the Garden Route in the Western Cape have undergone life-changing operations, courtesy of the Smile Foundation. The transformative surgeries are taking place at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

The NPO, which has brought smiles to more than four thousand children living with facial abnormalities, conducted a series of operations at the George Regional Hospital.

The foundation, together with teams of doctors, provides plastic and reconstructive surgery to children from all over the country.

7-year-old girl Oyintando has been mocked and ostracised by her community. Finally, she’s had the growth on her nose removed through corrective surgery.

Her mother was overwhelmed after seeing her child. “My child felt isolated, she couldn’t play with other children. We forced her to play with the children but she would come back and complain that they were teasing her. Even at school, she was teased and that didn’t sit well with me. But now I feel that I have a new baby.”

Primarily known for their work with cleft lips and palates, the Smile Foundation has given thousands of children their smiles back.

Eight-month-old baby Shameema will also be undergoing surgery. Her mother Tercial Soldaat says she is excited that her child will be operated on.

“It’s my first baby born like this and it made me very emotional. I’m excited that she’s being operated on because she’s been stared at and teased. And this is going to change everything and I’m very thankful.”

The Foundation also does reconstructive surgery on other physical anomalies. The team of doctors, all of whom volunteer their time, are happy to be making a difference in these children’s lives.

UCT Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Professor Saleigh Adams advises parents to bring their children in so that the surgeries can be done while they’re still young.

“The function has to come first, so in a child for instance with a cleft palate or lip and palate, if we don’t fix it early they’ll never speak normally. The lip is purely cosmetic, so if we don’t fix that then they get teased at school and ostracised in society and they’ll have a negative self-image. So it’s very important to sort out the form as well.”

Eleven hospitals around the country perform these operations for the Foundation.