Operation Smile and Smile Train Launch Rwanda Smiles™, An Unprecedented Collaboration to Create a Cleft-Free Rwanda

Apr 10, 2013, 10:44 ET from Operation Smile

NEW YORK and NORFOLK, Va., April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Smile Train and Operation Smile, the two leading cleft care charities in the world, are launching Rwanda Smiles a groundbreaking initiative to create a cleft-free Rwanda.        

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130410/DC92187)       

WHAT:   This joint effort is in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Rwanda to create the first-ever cleft-free country in Africa.

WHEN:   On April 12, Smile Train and Operation Smile will host a joint press conference in Kigali, Rwanda to announce the details of Rwanda Smiles.

WHO:     Representatives from Operation Smile, Smile Train and the Rwandan Ministry of Health will be available to discuss this unprecedented collaboration. President H.E. General Paul Kagame of Rwanda has expressed his support of Rwanda Smiles, to ensure every Rwandan born with a cleft lip or cleft palate receives life-changing surgery and lives a healthy life.

Each year, an estimated 250-300 babies are born with clefts in Rwanda. Approximately 4,000 children and adults in Rwanda today are suffering from a cleft. Rwandans affected with these birth defects often can't eat or speak properly. Many times, they are shunned and ostracized from their communities. Rwanda Smiles is designed to treat all Rwandans who are living with unrepaired clefts and ensure they have the opportunity to live full, productive lives.

Operation Smile and Smile Train are working closely with the Rwandan Ministry of Health to scale up their efforts and focus on the following needs:

  • Identifying those in need of cleft treatment
  • Providing free treatment and care to all Rwandans currently living in the country with unrepaired clefts
  • Training local medical professionals so they can provide ongoing care for children with clefts in their communities.

To create a cleft-free Rwanda, the medical infrastructure of the country will be enhanced so that children born with clefts in the future will have access to ongoing cleft care. Through Rwanda Smiles, Smile Train and Operation Smile will help build this infrastructure by establishing medical training programs for Rwandan medical professionals to further develop their skill levels in the areas of surgery, anesthesia, and nursing. Both organizations will engage their networks of international medical professionals to provide this specialized training for Rwandan medical teams.

For more information on Rwanda Smiles, please visit www.smiletrain.org and www.operationsmile.org.

About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)
Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is an international children's medical charity that works in more than 60 countries, whose network of more than 5,000 medical volunteers from over 80 countries is dedicated to improving the health and lives of children. Since it was founded in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 3.5 million healthcare evaluations and has been a major catalyst to introducing cleft care surgery and training programs in countries around the world in addition to directly conducting over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To build long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile establishes a local presence in country, trains local doctors and medical professionals so they are empowered to treat their own local communities, donates medical equipment and supplies, and provides year-round medical treatment through over 20 Operation Smile worldwide Comprehensive Care, Training & Treatment Centers.

About Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org)
Smile Train's mission is to provide a child born with a cleft the same opportunities in life as a child born without a cleft. We have provided more than 850,000 free cleft surgeries since 1999,  comprehensive care to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries and trained doctors and medical professionals in over 80 countries. Unlike many charities that do many different things, Smile Train's mission is focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate. Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where more than a million children are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren't allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Their clefts usually go untreated because they are poor - too poor to pay for a simple surgery that has been around for decades. We want our mission to be yours.

Jessica Kraft, Director of PR, Operation Smile
757-321-3207 |

Lina Plath, PR Representative of Smile Train
646-861-0843 | Lina@frankpublicity.com

SOURCE Operation Smile