Adina Lescher: 12 Years of Smiles

6 April 2020 | Smile Train

As someone with a personal connection to cleft, Adina Lescher understands better than anyone all of the care, support, and treatment children with cleft often need in order to thrive. It wasn’t until Adina saw an ad for Smile Train in a magazine that she learned not every child was fortunate enough to receive the quality of care that her family knew. But she was happy there was an organisation trying to bring that same level of care to everybody.

So, after college when she found a listing for a job at Smile Train’s headquarters in New York, she wasted no time in applying. She started as Donor Relations Associate, charged with helping people around the world raise funds and awareness for Smile Train.

Adina with Smile Train patients in Indonesia

The more she learned about Smile Train from the inside, the more she came to appreciate what makes it special. She first met Smile Train patients and partner doctors early in her second year with the organisation, on a Journey of Smiles trip to Peru. It was there that she first saw with her own eyes the calloused feet of children and parents who had walked for days to reach the medical centre, and gave a woman whose husband abandoned her after she gave birth to a child with a cleft her shoulder to cry on.

Adina with Smile Train patients in Peru

“It was overwhelming to meet not just the patients, but their parents as well. I recognised the fear in their eyes before surgery and the immense relief they felt when their child was brought to recovery.” These experiences — among so many others — left Adina humbled and determined to infuse her work back in New York with the blessings, inspiration, and strength they gave her.

A young Smile Train patient rides on their mother's back in Peru

Adina experienced another life-changing moment in Uganda, where she met Juliet Zawadde, a Smile Train patient who received surgery for her cleft lip at five months old.

Juliet Zawadde

“Since her mother connected with a Smile Train hospital shortly after she was born, Juliet did not suffer after being born with a cleft lip,” she said. “She was able to attend school and make friends, and because she received care at such an early age, she will continue to live a full and productive life.” Juliet’s bubbly personality has made her one of the most popular girls in her class — her photo was even featured in the school calendar.

Juliet Zawadde on her class calendar

“My hope in all my work is that more children born with cleft can receive care as quickly and successfully as Juliet.”

Over the following years, Adina has spread her passion for smiles to countless people. She played an integral role in starting Smile Train’s Young Leadership Circle and student groups and now leads all the organisation’s local fundraising efforts around the world as Senior Director of Community Fundraising.

Adina ultimately hopes to see a day when Smile Train is no longer needed, and all cleft treatment is taken care of locally.

Adina with a new friend in Indonesia

“While we are still many years away from achieving this goal, it’s exciting to see how Smile Train is creating a base to reach it,” she said. “While each country will take a different path to achieve self-sufficiency, we are beginning to imagine a time when a child born with a cleft, anywhere in the world, will receive the care that they need from their local community.”

Adina with a group of girls in Guatemala

Even now, 12 years later, Smile Train’s work — and the people who make it happen — inspire her daily. “Through our everyday interactions and collaborations, it’s clear to me that my co-workers around the world and I are all bound together by a deep commitment to our mission,” she said.


To join Adina in providing quality cleft care for those who need it most, please make a donation to Smile Train now.