As India braves a country-wide lockdown to control the transmission of COVID-19, parents of children with clefts find hope and comfort in Smile Train India’s toll-free cleft helpline. Funded by GSK Consumer Healthcare India, Smile Train’s global corporate sponsor, the helpline launched in January 2019 to support families in India who were affected by cleft.
Over the past year, Smile Train India’s toll-free cleft helpline has helped families across India find their nearest cleft treatment centre and has been a dependable source for sound cleft information. When rumours began circulating about a stay at home lockdown mandate for India, the team was worried that these vital services would end, and that families would once again be in the dark.
Thankfully, the Smile Train India team acted fast and provided helpline veteran Gomathi the capability to continue these services from her home.
Gomathi’s phone rings daily with calls from distraught parents of newborns with clefts. These parents find solace in talking to her and take comfort in knowing that help is close at hand.
One of Gomathi’s most memorable calls came from a young woman who had given birth just two days earlier. The new mother was alone and frightened; her husband and his family had abandoned her when their child was born with a cleft. Gomathi counselled her on how to take care of the baby, sharing videos on how to feed her child effectively.
Speaking to Gomathi and knowing that her baby would have free treatment available from Smile Train partners as soon as it was possible to travel gave the young mother hope. She and Gomathi will keep in regular contact until she can schedule an in-person appointment for her baby.
For Gomathi, helping parents and children is more than a job — it’s a full-time calling. “Knowing that I am able to comfort parents of babies with clefts, even in these uncertain and difficult times, gives me great satisfaction,” she says. “I don’t hesitate to answers calls even at night and over the weekends.”
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