Childwelfare SA

Smile Week kicks off in Free State giving 20 children new smiles

The Smile Foundation is continuing to transform the lives of as many children as possible through reconstructive surgery amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes a young teenage girl from the Free State, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, set to receive her life-changing surgery this week.

Fourteen-year-old Dineo’s first surgery was in 2012 at the age of 5. The surgery will be her 4th surgery to date. Letitia Jordaan, Smile Foundation’s Hospital Coordinator in the Free State, said Dineo’s transformation over the years has been nothing short of inspirational.

“When I met Dineo all those years ago, I could not believe my eyes and was in utter disbelief of this beautiful young girl’s transformation. And while the physical transformation of her surgeries has been remarkable, the impact on her confidence and self-esteem has been even more profound. Dineo has flourished with each surgery and I can’t wait to see the latest outcome. I am in awe of her courage and perseverance,” said Jordaan.

Dineo is among 20 children from different parts of the Free State who will receive corrective facial reconstructive surgery as part of the Universitas Academic Hospital Smile Week, which is taking place between 8 and 12 March. Sponsored by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), Smile Week is aimed at providing children with facial abnormalities and severe burns access to life-altering reconstructive surgery.ACSA has been a long-time partner of Smile Foundation and has committed to supporting four Smile Weeks this year.

“As Airports Company South Africa, we are honoured that our support for the Smile Foundation not only helps towards improving the physical appearance but also contributes towards the Psychological well-being of the children who ordinarily would be excluded from such programmes due to financial challenges,” said Refentse Shinners, Airports Company South Africa’s Group Executive: Corporate Affairs.

Dineo’s grandmother Anna, who is her primary caregiver said despite the adversity her granddaughter has had to endure, she has turned into a kind and strong young lady. Anna adds that while the journey has been emotionally challenging for Dineo and the family, things have improved over the years.

“No child should have to live with an unrepaired cleft lip or palate. It has been truly incredible to witness Dineo’s journey over the years. Her story is providing much-needed hope, dignity and self-esteem for children and teens with similar conditions. We are overwhelmed by the unbelievable support and backing from our key donor ACSA. The collaboration between the committed surgical team and ACSA brings faith and courage to children’s lives and their future,” added Hedley Lewis, CEO of Smile Foundation.

He added that their key goal was to address the surgery backlogs created by the Covid-19 pandemic, with several Smile Weeks scheduled across major regions in the country in the first half of this year alone. “There are thousands of children across the country who need our help. But, without the generosity of our corporate donors as well as members of the public, these surgeries would not be possible. We urge all those who are able, to assist us in helping to transform the lives of these children, as well as the lives of their families,” concluded Lewis.

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