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Every year, the first Friday in October marks World Smile Day. The day, held in honour of Harvey Ball, creator of the 'smiley face' logo, encourages everyone to 'help make one person smile'. And few organisations have done more for kids' smiles in SA than Smile Foundation.
Since its formation in 2000, the Smile Foundation has assisted in the successful reconstructive surgery of more than 2000 children. The Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides surgical intervention for children with facial anomalies, was formed when Nelson Mandela requested assistance from Marc Lubner to secure surgery for a young child suffering from a rare medical condition causing facial nerve paralysis (known as Moebius Syndrome).
Marc Lubner saw the bigger picture. There was no sustainability in sending one child overseas, so why not bring the skills home? To that end, surgeons were invited to South Africa to transfer the skills of this technique to local doctors.
Dr George Psaras, then Head of Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Witwatersrand, was the first surgeon in the country to learn this very specialised skill. The Independent Newspaper group, seeing the organisation's potential, came on board and the Star Smile Fund was born.
In 2007, the Smile Fund’s growth meant the organisation was established as a Section 21 entity, and the fund was re-launched as the Smile Foundation, dedicated to improving the lives of children with treatable facial conditions such as facial paralysis, cleft lip and palate, as well as ear and nose conditions and burn wounds.
Smile Week at Vodacom
Vodacom has been one of the Smile Foundation's biggest supporters since 2007. To date, the Vodacom Foundation has been able to support the Smile Foundation with funding amounting to around R18 million. These funds have allowed them to change the lives of more than 560 children with corrective surgery, as well as assisted with skills transfer and development programmes for surgeons at academic hospitals, and programmes teaching nursing staff how to care for these little patients.
The funding received by Smile Foundation goes towards the provision of free corrective facial reconstructive surgery and treatments, as well as equipment for the departments at academic hospitals specialising in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Babies with cleft lips and/or palates find it hard to suckle, which impacts their growth and development, and influences speech development. The corrective surgery performed by the doctors during Vodacom-sponsored Smile Weeks ensure that the children can develop and grow to their full potential.
During a Vodacom Smile Week, Vodacom staff volunteer to spend time at the hospital, where they play with and read to the little patients, ensuring that the children’s stay is both fun and memorable.
Vodacom and Smile Foundation remain passionately committed to making a difference in the lives of South African children.