Secondary student and Smile Train supporter Sivani Alla describes, in her own words, how she used dance to raise smiles all over the world.
Growing up in a suburban town, I’ve been sheltered from the obstacles that millions of other children face across the developing world. Two years ago, when I first visited Smile Train’s website, I got a better understanding of one of those obstacles — cleft lip and palate. I learned that an untreated cleft can make breathing, speaking, and eating difficult and has a devastating emotional toll. The more that I learned about the solvable problem of cleft, the more I wanted to help these children.
I decided that the best way to raise funds for Smile Train was to organise talent shows with the help of my large family, who live all around the world. I’ve trained in Indian dance since I was four years old so it was a natural fit for me to leverage my experience and invite other children to dance, sing, play an instrument, or even just talk.
I found that the most effective method to set up these events was to plan them around our family gatherings — birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries were soon transformed to full-scale benefit shows. I started by sending out an email to a cousin and then he or she would forward it to everyone in their neighbourhood. Over the course of two years, we put on events in the United States in Virginia, Texas, and Wisconsin and internationally in Jamaica and India. Through these events, we raised 42 smiles for children who desperately needed them.
Even though it took a lot of work, these shows ended up being some of the most meaningful days of my life. I believe that every single child, despite their circumstances, should have the opportunity to live a full and productive life and I’m so pleased that we have made an impact in the lives of those 42 children.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to help children with untreated clefts, including hosting an event or organising a school fundraiser, please visit the Get Involved section on our site. Your support can help a child receive their new smile and a second chance at life.