Alliance For Smiles

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Alliance For Smiles (AFS) was founded by Rotarians in San Francisco to provide free reconstructive surgery and serious dental health needs of underserved and orphaned Chineese children. It has grown into an international organization supporting four mediacal team trips a year.

The goal of AFS is to establish long term cleft lip and palate care programs in China and promote the ideals of Rotary International through instilling the concept of service. This in turn will create international understanding and goodwill, a central theme of Rotary.

Rotary Clubs and Districts participate by funding as will as providing volunteers for the hands-on world community service project.

In 2006 Rotarian and Dental Hygienist, Jill Moore, had "a most extraordinary experience", as one of thirty Alliance for Smiles volunteers on a 17 day mission to China. "I went to China to help children", said Jill, "however I gained more than I gave."

With other oral and medical specialists from North America she brought hope and medical care to children with severe facial and oral defects. They set up a clinic in the Shenyang Children's Hospital 190 km (120 miles) from the border with North Korea. The local Rotarian was part of the dental unit working in advance of over 100 reconstructive facial surgeries performed during the trip.

 

"Parents came with great hope that strangers from far away could repair the severe speech impediments that keep their children out of school". Knowledge of the clinic rapidly spread throughout northern China and Mongolia attracting hundreds of families t o see the visiting specialists.

 

The first days were especially chaotic when the children were examined and prioritized for surgery. Regretfully that was difficult for everyone as some were chosen for surgery while others were turned away because they were too ill. 

 

Although they brought a container of modern equipment and supplies, the visiting medical team faced many challenges. Outdated facilities, cultural differences and needs far exceeding their capacity all confronted them. Through good will and very long hours of hard work the best interests of the young patients prevailed.

 

"It was both exciting and humbling to join other medical volunteers to care for these afflicted children. The Alliance for Smiles focuses on p alate and lip defects in China which devastate a child with disfigurement and severe speech impediment. "

 

She explained, "A cleft palate is a "hole" in the palate or roof of the mouth so the inside of the nose and mouth are not separate. It is caused by a failure of the palate to close during gestation; surgical repair of the cleft is generally done at one to two years of age. A cleft or split lip is a separate condition; these birth defects can occur independently or together."

The Alliance for Smiles, supported by Rotarians and public donations, partners with the Chinese Red Cross who provide critical aid including translators, invaluable local and cultural knowledge as well as accommodations and meals.

 

Most children undergoing the life-changing procedures were about two years old although ages were from one month to 14 years. These small children had many decayed teeth removed and seemingly endless fillings when there was the possibility of saving their teeth.

 

Between procedures, Jill instructed children and parents on how to brush their teeth.  "You had to start with very basic instructions because the children had never held a toothbrush. I had never seen such poor dental health; most of their teeth were severely decayed." 

 

"It was so satisfying and personally rewarding to serve these very grateful families with such essential medical help. Public and Rotary support for this very worthwhile trip was outstanding so I will certainly be calling upon them again as I will definitely be going back to help more families."

For further information on Alliance For Smiles click HERE.