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Vodacom
14 November 2016

Helping children smile

The Vodacom Smile Week came to Tygerberg Academic Hospital this November to change the lives of children with cleft palates and other congenital anomalies.

From 7-11 November, Vodacom and Smile Foundation once again spread hope to children during Smile Week in Cape Town. Doctors from the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Stellenbosch University helped around 43 children between the ages 8 months and 12 years with cranio-facial and cleft surgery in Tygerberg Academic Hospital's world-class theatres.

Helping children reach their full potential

This is the ninth time the Vodacom Foundation has partnered with the Smile Foundation on Smile Week, and it is something that Vodacom as an organisation feels passionate about. To date, the Vodacom Foundation has been able to support the Smile Foundation with funding amounting to over R18 million, which has enabled the Smile Foundation to change the lives of more than 560 children with corrective surgery.

Executive Head: Vodacom Foundation Mthobeli Tengimfene says: ‘Babies with cleft lips and/or palates find it hard to suckle and this impacts their growth and development. It also has an influence on their speech development, so the corrective surgery, performed by the doctors during a Vodacom-sponsored Smile Week, ensures that the children can develop and grow to their full potential, which all children deserve.

‘During a Vodacom-sponsored Smile Week, our employees are hands-on and volunteer their time at the hospital to play with and read to the little patients. This is invaluable to make the hospital experience more enjoyable for the patients and their parents.’

‘During a Vodacom sponsored Smile Week, our employees volunteer their time at the hospital to play with and read to the little patients.’

Minister of Health, Western Cape Province, Ms Nomafrench Mbombo says: ‘Government does not always have the capacity to provide children with corrective surgery. We rely upon donations from the private sector, and this partnership between the Smile Foundation, Vodacom and Tygerberg Academic Hospital is a model that works extremely well. We are proud to be associated with this Vodacom Smile Week.

Providing holistic care and support

The Vodacom Foundation is privileged to partner with the Smile Foundation in helping these youngsters regain the full use of their facial expressions. Cleft lip and palate is the most common facial congenital anomaly in children, affecting the patients in many negative ways and requiring long-term specialist treatment. The surgery remedies the condition, and a multidisciplinary approach that includes healthcare professionals will continue post-operatively at the hospital, contributing to the best outcome for the child.

The power of public-private partnerships

Moira Gerszt, Smile Foundation’s Operations Director says: ‘Tygerberg Academic Hospital has a massive reach, and as a result, a significant number of children will benefit from this Smile Week. There is also a diverse range of surgeries taking place this Smile Week. We have four additional surgeons supporting Dr Alexander Zuhlke. These include Dr Frank Graewe, who is joining the team to assist with Esinalo’s cranial surgery on Tuesday, and Dr Dirk van der Spuy, a specialist in hand surgery, who will be tackling eight surgeries to correct congenital hand conditions on Friday.

‘Once again, we are grateful to Tygerberg Academic Hospital, its Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and all the surgeons, nursing staff and anaesthetists who are giving their time and expertise to help these children. The invaluable support of the Vodacom Foundation has once again made this all possible, highlighting the true power of collaboration and public-private partnerships in South Africa,’ says Gerszt.