As a Young Leadership Circle (YLC) Board Member, I have decided to fundraise for Smile Train to help provide smiles to children in need. Smile Train is an international children’s charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate.
Many children with clefts around the world live in isolation, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking. Cleft surgery is a safe, permanent solution with an immediate impact. Smile Train’s sustainable model provides training, funding, and resources to empower local doctors in 70+ countries to provide these lifesaving surgeries and other essential cleft care 100%-free, in their own communities.
My parents chose to adopt a three year old girl with a cleft lip and palate because (apparently!) it was love at first sight. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if my parents didn't see beyond my birth defect.
My cleft lip and palate was fixed when I was three. Growing up, I still experienced many challenges. I was bullied because I "talked funny" and had a nasally voice. I was bullied because I had a scar on my lip and my nose was crooked. I spent nearly 10 years in speech therapy, and to this day, I still experience immense anxiety when I meet new people and converse for the first time. "Will they understand me? Make sure you enunciate and talk slowly. Don't talk too fast." are just some thoughts that run through my mind each time.
It was not easy as a kid, but I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have had my clefts repaired. None of my challenges compare to those who are still suffering from clefts.
I cannot imagine what my life would be like if my cleft lip and palate couldn't be repaired, and my heart aches knowing that there are millions of people who are suffering and living in isolation from something that can be permanently fixed with surgery.
I've always dreamed of a time when I could give back and help those who are suffering from cleft lip and palates. The time is now and I am so grateful for your support as I embark on this journey to help as many people as possible.