Mackinnon Engen serves as Vice President of Programs, helping to develop and strengthen Smile Train’s programmes around the world to reach more children in need of cleft care. In her own words, she asked to give Smile Train supporters an update on her team’s plans for 2016.
I’m excited to share that we have already hit the ground running and have a number of exciting plans for Smile Train in 2016! Supporters of our programmes often ask me what is new or coming down the pipeline, so I thought I would provide a sneak peek of a few new programmes and efforts this year.
Smile Train continues to invest more and more in our comprehensive care programmes, such as speech therapy and orthodontics, so that all our patients can go on to live a full life. In January, Smile Train hosted its first speech therapy training in Ghana. With participants from across West Africa, the event helped pave the way for more children in the region to access critical speech services after their cleft surgery.
We are always aiming to grow our local partnerships with cleft teams so that we can help as many children as possible. Recently we launched new partnerships and programmes in Haiti, Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic. It is so inspiring to see the commitment these medical teams have to help children in their own communities. Smile Train’s support for surgery, training, equipment and other needs helps ensure that children no longer have to wait for life-changing treatment and their families can feel confident that the care being provided will be high-quality, safe, and completely free.
We work tirelessly to raise awareness about clefts as a treatable medical condition. The children we are trying to reach are often hidden away, shunned or isolated in their communities so our efforts to get the word out at the grassroots level are essential. This year, our Smile Train team in India has planned a series of cleft weeks across the country. While a child can get help from our programmes all year round, a cleft week is a special time that the whole village comes together to help reach children with clefts in need. Our ambassadors and local partners spend time in the village market, places of worship, schools, and even going door to door in a campaign to educate the public about clefts and the opportunity for free treatment with a local Smile Train partner. These efforts help us reach hundreds more children who could otherwise remain left behind.
Here at Headquarters, we are also focusing on how we can continue to measure our impact and ensure that we are leveraging our donors’ support as best as possible around the developing world. We created and host the world’s largest cleft treatment database, Smile Train Express, so that we can track every single patient we serve and monitor the care they are receiving. We are constantly updating this technology to ensure it meets our needs as our programmes grow and expand, such as adding new features for speech therapy + orthodontics and adding new languages so it can be used seamlessly anywhere in the world.
While these are a few of our new efforts, one thing will never change: Smile Train and our partner hospitals around the world are working as hard as possible to make sure that each and every child with a cleft will receive the best possible care. We are looking forward to creating many more smiles together with you in 2016!