Buying Smiles - The Smile Train

When it comes to charity stuff, I've not always been generous with my cash - mostly because I never really have any to give away. I grew up with a mom who was always out and about doing something for the community in Liberia. While I logged many volunteer hours in high school visiting nursing homes, child care centers, and homes for women escaping domestic violence and even continuing in college, my hours given to helping others has steadily decreased as I’ve grown older. The excuses are many but the result is the same. It is difficult to believe that I’m the sister of someone who is president of her sorority alumni chapter (they basically do 100% giving to the community) and gives both her time and money to the needy like everyday! Luckily for me, I’ve never been the competitive type.

Now with a job in development work, the end goal of my work is definitely helping to improve the lives of local people in the areas of Sudan in which I work. And while I’ve definitely become cynical about what it means to ‘help’ I know at the end of the day, the roads we have constructed means greater access to goods for people who have been very isolated for years and boreholes in communities means some woman no longer has to walk a full day for 20 litres of water. But I still feel very removed from it all considering my role as a manager is doing all the paper pushing and negotiating to make sure that all the important stuff happens. I rarely have the time to the field and when I do it's usually no more than a few hours or a night.

Anyway, a few months ago, I was reading the New York Times as I usually do and read an article about this organization called The Smile Train. Their goal is the fix cleft lips and palates. What really struck me was the way in which they go about their business. Unlike Operation Smile which flies very expensive medical staff from the West to poor countries for only two weeks to perform these surgeries, The Smile Train actually trains local medical professionals on how to do the surgeries themselves which means that more can be done. What also got me was that 100% of the donation that they receive goes directly to the surgery. None of it goes to salaries, office rent, vehicle fuel or any of the other gazillion overhead budget lines that usually sucks up a person’s donation (yeah – I haven’t missed the paradox that I’m paid some such budget lines ☺). The board members pay for all of the overhead costs - can we say deep pockets!

So I went to their handy dandy website and found out that it was only $250 for this 45 minute, life-changing surgery. I tag teamed with my girl Faty who didn’t even hesitate for a minute when I asked her for $125 bucks to share the cost of an operation with me. I'm hoping that they send a picture of the kid that gets helped.

Now I know it doesn’t take the place of me actually going out and donating my time, but I figured this is a small step forward for me.

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