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Since 2007, Vodacom has been involved with the Smile Foundation, an organisation that serves children with facial conditions. This year, the Vodacom Foundation is supporting the Smile Foundation to operate on children with facial anomalies and is providing 25 children with cranio-facial and cleft surgery at the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein. This is the 10th time the Vodacom Foundation has partnered with the Smile Foundation on a Smile Week.
To date, Vodacom's contribution to the Smile Foundation totals R21 million. The funding has enabled the Smile Foundation to change the lives of more than 500 children with corrective surgery. Babies with cleft lips and/or palates find it difficult to suckle and it has an influence on their speech development. Corrective surgery ensures that the children can develop and grow to their full potential.
During a Vodacom-sponsored Smile Week, Vodacom employees are active participants. They volunteer their time at the hospital to play and read to the little patients. This makes the hospital experience more enjoyable for the patients and their parents.
One of the patients at this year's Smile Week is Oregolele. When she was born, her mother, Matlatsi, was over the moon. Her daughter was perfect in every way. Matlatsi noticed the little girl’s ears looked different. Doctors confirmed she had been born with bilateral constricted ears – a genetic disorder that is only repairable through specialist surgery. Now, five years later, Matlatsi’s dream is about to come true as Oregolele receives the surgery as part of the Vodacom Smile Week.
“Oregolele’s hearing is perfect, but her ears remain small and curled in on themselves. Sadly, this has seen her being teased at preschool. Despite this, Oregolele remains a happy, confident little girl who is always ready with a willing smile,” explains Moira Gerszt, Smile Foundation’s Operations Executive Director. “This surgery represents an amazing opportunity for Oregolele, who will no longer feel left out next year when she goes to ‘big school’.”
Another anxious mother hoping for a better life for her child is Motshello Maleme, whose eight-month-old baby boy, Obohlokoa, will undergo a bilateral cleft lip repair this Smile Week. The surgery will enable little Obohlokoa to feed better, as up until now he has needed a special milk bottle.
Oregolele and Obohlokoa are two of 25 paediatric patients from across the Free State being operated on this Smile Week, which is made possible by the medical and administrative personnel at Universitas Academic Hospital, Smile Foundation and Vodacom Foundation.