Dunia: An Update

IMG_3272I know that many of you are interested in following Dunia’s journey, so I thought you might like an update on how he’s doing at the beginning of 2017.

I’m happy to report that overall, our now 9-year-old is doing well. He now speaks and understands English beautifully, thanks to his two host families. Both Jennifer Crean and Kim Chaix have opened their homes and hearts to Dunia and are inspirational examples of humanity at its best. He is currently living with Kim and his family in Brooklyn and successfully progressing through another school year. Soccer, surfing and Taekwondo occupy his time when he’s not studying.

You may have heard that Dunia experienced a minor setback in the past week. While he is here, Dr. Dagum has agreed to continue operating on Dunia to improve his appearance and function of his new lips. Unfortunately, the most ideal approach, involving the placement of tissue expanders was unsuccessful due to the extensive tissue damage and scarring that took place after the chimpanzee attack. Dr. Dagum removed them this past week and is now planning an alternative approach. Despite some minor setbacks I continue to be amazed by the optimistic attitude of everyone involved, particularly Dunia. The dedication and charitable contribution of Dr. Dagum and the entire Stony Brook Medicine community has been phenomenal.

In terms of next steps, our original plan was to return Dunia to a private boarding school in the Congo after the school year, where he would be in a safe environment and could focus on his education. The Smile Rescue Fund would fund his room, board and education. However, current conditions now appear unsafe for his return as planned.

Lastly, thank you, our supporters for your interest in helping this child navigate toward a new life. Stay tuned for more updates as Dunia continues his journey!

Leon

Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine Partners with Smile Rescue Fund for Kids

Stony Brook Dental School Bake Sale

Jamila Balooch presents Dr.K with donation

bakesale

Stony Brook Dental School Bake Sale

cookies

Delicious CupCakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamila Balooch, a third-year dental student at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine attended a presentation given by Dr. Klempner at the annual Stony Brook Medicine Cleft Palate Symposium earlier this year.  During the lecture, she learned about some of the work done by the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids.  “I was touched by what I heard and knew I wanted to help”, said Jamila.

Jamila helped coordinate the efforts of the Stony Brook Pediatric Dentistry club and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry to raise money by having a bake sale.  They raised over $300!!  A big shout out to Jamila and her classmates and best of luck in their new career.  Interested in making a small donation?  Click the yellow button on the right.

Update on Dunia’s Progress – What’s Next?

Dunia's BirthdayI’m happy to report that Dunia has recovered from his previous two surgeries and is enjoying the summer. He celebrated his 9th birthday last month!

Dunia will have another procedure at Stony Brook Hospital in early September to improve the symmetry of his mouth and that will conclude the first phase of his surgical treatment plan. Dr. Alexander Dagum and the Stony Brook Hospital medical team have done a phenomenal job creating upper and lower lips from tissue taken from Dunia’s forearm. (Read CNN article)

Our original plan was to return him to a private boarding school in the Congo this fall, where he would be in a safe environment and could focus on his education. The Smile Rescue Fund would fund his room, board and education. However, current conditions appear unsafe for his return this fall as planned (Read Human Rights Watch) to learn more.

Although there is a school in neighboring Rwanda that appears well suited, he’s not yet performing at his target grade level, a requirement for enrollment. (Due to his appearance after the chimpanzee attack, Dunia never attended school until arriving here in the U.S.). But he’s getting there! Dunia’s teacher, Mrs. Tamara West, his classmates, the entire Pines Elementary School staff and administration have taught Dunia to speak fluent English, among other skills, and embraced and cared for him with love and respect.

After much consideration, we’ve decided that the best course of action is for Dunia to remain in the U.S. for now. He will stay with his guardian family in Brooklyn, and enroll in another year of school. He is very comfortable with the family and we anticipate an easy adjustment. It is our hope that he will catch up to his peers by the end of the school year, allowing him to enroll in the boarding school in Rwanda shortly thereafter, so he can be closer to his father.

In the meantime, Dr. Dagum will continue to monitor Dunia’s surgical progress at Stony Brook Medical. To take advantage of his extended stay, additional surgical procedures to improve function and esthetics are now in the planning stages.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the outstanding efforts of Jennifer Crean (SRFK Director and host mom to Dunia), her fiancé Kevin, her children, Collin, Eian and Grace, and his children (her stepchildren) Connor, Brianna and Kiersten. They befriended him, nurtured him and most importantly unconditionally loved him as they welcomed him into their home. They have restored his self-image and have given him confidence.

The efforts of all our SRFK volunteers are instrumental. From hospital visits to weekend hosting to summer excursions, our volunteer community has gone above and beyond to ensure Dunia’s journey is a positive one. Your time, dedication, positivity, and love are what drives this organization.

At this time, we need to establish a SRFK fundraising committee to help us raise money necessary for Dunia’s continued education. If you would like to volunteer to help, please send me an email: leon@smilerescuefund.org. Fundraising experience would be helpful but a desire to make a contribution of your valuable time and make a difference is much more significant. Of course, direct contributions are always welcome on our secure Smile Rescue Fund PayPal website link.

I started the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids in order to help children with severe facial deformities. Unlike most other charities, we have a very holistic approach which goes well beyond improving their facial appearance. Our not-for-profit goal is to help these children integrate back into society and lead a productive life. Our motto “every child deserves a chance” is more than a marketing tagline.

Many thanks, as always, to everyone that’s helping us give Dunia a chance.  As always, I welcome your suggestions, thoughts or comments below.

Leon

Henry Schein Cares Recognize Smile Rescue Fund for Kids

Henry Schein, Inc., the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners, announced today that it has awarded the inaugural Henry Schein Cares Medal for medical health—an award that will be given annually to one organization that demonstrates excellence in expanding access to medical care for the underserved—to Hands Up for Haiti (HUFH). Stanley M. Bergman, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Henry Schein, Inc., presented the Mount Kisco, New York-based humanitarian organization with the medal at the Company’s national medical sales meeting in Dallas last week.

The finalists were selected by an independent panel of judges for the Henry Schein Cares Medal from a field of three finalists, which also included the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation of Alhambra, California and Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, Inc. of Setauket, New York. As the winner, HUFH will receive $15,000 in cash from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, Inc. to support its work. In addition, each finalist will receive $10,000 worth of product from Henry Schein, Inc.

Click to read more

Tensator Delivers the Smiles

The Tensator company in Bayshore held a special fundraising campaign for The Smile Rescue Fund for Kids.  The employees heard about Dunia on the news and want to do something to help.  They decided to start a collection and contribute money to help our organization.

We applaud this altruistic company and all of their conscience based employees.

Dr. Leon Klempner, founder, of the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, is shown here accepting the donation from Director of Sales, David Cohen, on behalf of the organization. 

Listen to Dr.Klempner on Stony Brook Radio – WUSB – 90.1 – Thursday 2/25/16 – 3pm

Dr. Leon Klempner will be interviewed about the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids on Stony Brook radio station WUSB(90.1)FM on Thursday February 25, 2016 at 3 pm.  He will discuss Dunia’s recent surgery and the SRFK volunteers.

Listen in of you are around.

Dunia recovering from his first surgery

Thanks to the surgical skills of Dr.Dagum and Dr.Bui, Dunia has completed the first in a series of complex micro surgeries to restore his upper and lower lips.

I was able to stay with Dunia during the entire procedure as I watched and sometimes assisted in the operating room.  I was totally amazed by the skill and dedication of the entire Stony Brook Children’s hospital team.  They worked diligently and meticulously as a well coordinated unit.

His next surgery will be planned in the next few months and I’ll keep you informed with the details.  On behalf of Dunia, I want to thank all the volunteers that are scheduled to stay with Dunia during his hospital stay as well as everyone that is taken an interest in helping this unfortunate child.  Stony Brook Children’s Hospital– you are awesome.

Interested in getting involved in our not for profit charity and making a difference?  Contact Jennifer, our Executive Director -jennifer@smilerescuefund.org

Dr.Leon Klempner

Dunia’s First Surgery – Jan.11, 2016 – Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

I’m happy to announce that Dunia will undergo his first surgical procedure at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital on January 11th.  Due to his extensive injuries and subsequent scarring, Dunia will need multiple surgeries.  On January 11th, a team of doctors and nurses lead by Dr. Alexander Dagum, Chairman, Department of Plastic Surgery, will operate to graft tissue necessary for future surgeries. This complex challenging surgery could take all day.  The ultimate goal is an attempt to recreate new functional upper and lower lips for Dunia.

As most of you know, Dunia Sibomana and Andre Bauma were welcomed into the home of Jennifer Crean and her three children: Collin, Eian, and Grace.  Andre has since returned home to his two families, his wife and kids, and his orphaned gorillas.

Staying with Jenn full time has brought Dunia a unique opportunity: to attend the Pines elementary school in Hauppauge. As of this writing, Dunia has happily settled into the school-day routine.  Even better, one of Dunia’s classroom teachers is Mrs. Tamara West whose husband, Mr. Michael West, is the Director of Food Services at Stony Brook Hospital.  With Michael’s help we were able to bring Dunia and Andre to the hospital for a short tour prior to Andre’s return to the DRC on December 21st.

Something to remember is that Dunia is a native Swahili speaker. He understands and can say some words in French (lessons are taught in French in school in the DRC), and can also understand and speak the language of Rwanda, where his father is from, but came here not knowing any English. Andre has been Dunia’s interpreter.

In December, my wife Laurie and I brought Dunia and Andre to Stony Brook Hospital where we were met by quite a few people who will be involved directly and indirectly in Dunia’s care. Among them were Michael and Tamara West, Dr. William Arens, a recently retired professor of Anthropology at SBU, who came with his wife Diane, and Ms. Mariam Isack, a colleague of Dr. Arens who works in the International Academics Program at SBU. Bill and Diane Arens and Mariam Isack all speak Swahili and were there to offer support in any way they could.

After our initial meeting in the hospital lobby, we were escorted up to the Pediatric unit of the hospital where Dunia met Mr. Michael Attard, a Child Life Specialist. Michael showed us the pediatric “safe room” explaining that the room’s toys and activities can be enjoyed by the unit’s hospitalized children without the interruption and stress of any medical treatments. We also met some of the unit’s nursing and auxiliary staff.

It was a special morning for all involved and we thank everyone for their kindness and generosity (Dunia was showered with attention and gifts).

I know many of you would like to visit Dunia in the hospital.  As of now we do not know how long he will be in the operating room, how long he will be in recovery, and how long his hospital stay will be.  We know that many of you would like to be involved but we do not want to overwhelm him with visitors this first time around.  We do have volunteers that will be staying with him overnight so he will not be alone.  We will keep you posted.

In the picture above, from left to right: William Arens, Mariam Isack, Laurie Klempner, Michael Attard, Michael West, Leon Klempner, Tamara West, and Diane Arens. Dunia and Andre are in front.

As always, we welcome your comments.

Times Beacon Record Newsmedia Article about SRFK

Leon Klempner poses with Dunia Sibomana in front of the Christmas tree.

Leon Klempner poses with Dunia Sibomana in front of the Christmas tree.

 

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The Times Beacon Record wrote an article highlighting the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids and our newest beneficiary, Dunia Sibomana. Check it out here: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/long-island-group-rescues-little-boys-smile/