On my recent trip to Colombia,  I spent time with the Rotary Club of Tulua el Lago, whose flagship program is called "A Smile for Life." We were introduced to this program by our 2015-16 Colombian Rotary Youth Exchange student Dani Sanabria, and our Club donated $2,000 in Duck Race proceeds to this worthy organization.
Pictured front row left to right: Dora Zapata de Molina (mentors the children), Silverdale Rotarian Mike Hancock, Jeyson Barrantes a recipient of the surgeries, prosthodontist Dr. Jairo Sanabria (Dani's father).  Back row: Exchange Student, interpreter Morgan Welch from Minnesota, two Exchange Students, speech therapist Adriana Ocampo
The volunteers perform Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip surgeries on underprivileged children from rural Colombia, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to live normal lives. The amazing thing about their program is that they don't just do a surgery and send the child home. They also provide Hearing surgeries (if needed), mental health services, speech therapy and anything else that is needed to treat the "whole person," not just the mouth.
All of the Doctors that participate in this program donate their services, which could include up to 20 surgeries (or more) per child. This is because as the child's head grows, there are different things that need to be done to make sure that when they reach adulthood, everything fits and is working properly.
The only things that are paid for are the operating room and anesthesia, which are supported by the Tulua el Lago Club's local fundraising, as well as donations from around the world. They have about 40-45 kids in the program at any given time, with 4-5 graduating out each year and 4-5 new cases coming in.
Many of the children shown in these photos have had most of their surgeries. I didn't post the "before" pictures, as they may be too much for many people to see, but you can definitely see the results of the program in their faces, eyes and smiles.
What an amazing opportunity it has been for me to witness, first-hand, the great work of A Smile for Life. I will be working with my Rotary Club of Silverdale to establish an account within our Foundation to support this effort further. So, if any of you would like to make a tax deductible contribution to this very worthwhile cause, let me know. I hope to have this set up very soon.