As part of the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo’s support for cleft charity Smile Train, we are running a regular series that highlights the organisation’s life-changing work.

As reported, The Moodie Davitt Report is to fund a cleft operation through Smile Train for every paid exhibitor at the pioneering event.

Smile Train has supported over 1.5 million cleft surgeries since 1999. Every five minutes Smile Train-supported cleft treatment helps a child in need.

Some 200,000 babies are born every year with cleft lips and/or palates. US$250 funds the cost of the 45-minute cleft surgery that transforms the life of a child – and that of his or her family.

Let us introduce you to Johana, a youngster from Kenya who, thanks to Smile Train, does not hide away any more.

Johana was Likanto’s sixth child. The Kenyan mother had never seen a baby with a cleft before; she was heartbroken and concerned for his future.

Johana, however, was excited when he reached school age. He was ready to join other children at the village school in southern Kenya. Sadly, his excitement quickly turned to sadness.

Johana was teased constantly and began to cover this mouth whenever he was out in public.

He became increasingly shy; always sat alone and never participated in class or talked to his classmates. Johana’s silence made his teachers incorrectly think that he had a learning disability.

Family snaps: Johana before his surgery and (below) happily showing off his entire family

The boy’s sadness upset his mother until the day that the family learned from a community health worker that Smile Train supported free surgeries and related treatment for children with clefts.

Likanto was quick to take her son to a local Smile Train-partner hospital. He was scheduled for surgery, and once his cleft lip was successfully repaired, became a different child.

With newfound confidence, Johana’s energy and intelligence have made him the star of his village, and his school, where he was recently ranked among the best students in his class and elected class president.

[Make the investment of a lifetime. Just US$21/month is all it takes to sponsor life-changing cleft surgery for one more child every year. Visit smiletrain.org to make a gift today.]

*PREVIOUSLY FEATURED SMILE TRAIN EXPERIENCES INCLUDE:

Meet Maria from Kenya and Ahlam, Yassin and little Habeeba from Egypt

Meet Sel, Maxime and Divine, three children whose lives have been changed by Smile Train

Meet Monica, a Colombian teenager who, despite a family tragedy and bullying, continues to wear a big smile

Meet Kenzu and his parents Susilawati and Heri from Indonesia

Meet nine-year-old Wang Li from China, René and Cristina from Ecuador and Anji from India