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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

Duncan

Farewell Message from Duncan……

I would have loved to see the sweet beginning of Saline’s much anticipated smile which also marks the end of the journey we have traveled for the last four years on a very rough and painful road,i have to leave since it is unavoidable .  Out of nothing and without any ray of hope,we started and stumbled.Little did we know that at some point God would bond us with selfless,loving and generous people who have now seen us this far.

On behalf of Saline,her mom,relatives,school community,friends,neighbors,my family and myself,i thank you all most sincerely.You denied yourselves and sacrificed to see her smile and integrate socially in the society.You’ve, indeed,inculcated in me values i would cherish for life.It’s great that a young girl like Heather raised funds to help one unfortunate girl from one corner of the world before she even saw her,Valeria of Loretta P.E school, among others, whose passionate efforts to raise funds really touched my heart.
My gratitude goes out to every person who came on board for her sake.I didn’t chance to meet everyone but let me mention a few. Tame’s family, Muller’s family, Nugent’s family, Jennifer’s family, Dr.Dagum and his team,Stony Brook Univ.Hospital, Diane Knoblach/ Loretta P.E School, Smile Rescue Fund For Kids, SmileTrain staff-Kenya, Coolsmiles Orthodontics, Africa project group.
Dr.Leon and his family remain an enigmatic unit,a miracle and a blessing throughout this journey.You have lit up our faces,created a difference in us and I pray you don’t stop with Saline. Many other needy  children are out there  ‘ONE AT A TIME’ and the list will grow.
Many people who know Saline’s journey to the USA ask for and about things not worth mentioning here but all we are pursuing is SALINE’S SMILE,exactly what we’ve been yearning for from the beginning
I appreciate your love,care and concern.Welcome to Kenya and share with us as you serve humanity across the globe.
Duncan

Saline has arrived!

Saline has safely arrived and is staying with her host family in Stony Brook ahead of her upcoming surgery. Now 12 years old, Saline suffers from a cleft palate as well as bout of flesh eating bacteria, which caused even more serious damage. Dr. Alex Dagum will lead the surgical team at Stony Brook University Hospital to repair the damage, the funding for which came from friends, family and generous donors over the past two years. A special thank you must go to the wonderful families hosting Saline and her teacher, Duncan, during their month-long stay in New York. 

Please join us in welcoming Saline to our community and wishing her well in her series of upcoming surgeries!

Our fundraising efforts are ongoing, and we appreciate any support you can offer. To donate, please visit our website at www.smilerescuefund.org

 

Smile Rescue Fund for Kids Bringing Saline From Kenya To Stony Brook

I’m happy to say that the Kenyan government has granted Saline a medical visa and passport to come to here for surgery.  The Smile Rescue Fund for Kids supplied all financial records and legal documents necessary to the Kenyan consulate.   This was our last major obstacle.  I am in the process of buying airline tickets for Saline and her adult tutor, Duncan.  We owe a lot of gratitude to Esther, our Kenyan contact, for helping our cause.

This has not been an easy road for Saline.  As you may know, last winter we raised enough money to fund a plastic surgery team in Nairobi to perform the procedure.  Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful.  This was a devastating disappointment for Saline, her family and all of her supporters back here at home.  After that, the Smile Rescue Fund did not give up on Saline but renewed its efforts to bring her here.   We anticipate a series of complex surgeries over the course of three to six months with no guarantee of success.  However, we are very optimistic and very grateful to Dr. Dagum, his colleagues and Stony Brook University Hospital for donating their services to help Saline.  This will be her best opportunity for a successful result.  See article in Times Beacon Record Newspaper.

I am also very grateful to all of our wonderful supporters and fundraisers for their efforts in making Saline’s dream of living a normal life a possibility.

Based on Dr. Dagum’s and the hospital’s schedule, arrangements are being made to bring Saline and Duncan here at the end of May.

At this time, we are looking for volunteers to house Saline and Duncan for part, or all, of their stay.

Please forward this story to your facebook friends.  Hopefully with your help we will be able to help more children like Saline.  Without us, they have no hope.

Leon

NYC Fundraiser for Saline – Huge Success

We raised over $1200.00 at Bar 29 on 3rd Avenue and 29th Street on Sunday December 11th.  We actioned off our football signed by “Boomer”, 50-50 raffle and sold Smile Rescue Fund tee shirts (thanks Jenn).

A big thank you to all attending and a special shout out to our organizers. Melissa and Tamir Young, Lisa and Jodi Klempner, Amy and Jon Epstein and Jennifer Crean.

“Boomer” Donates a Signed Football for Saline

Boomer Esiason (former Terp QB) has signed a football to help raise money for Saline!  Come on down to the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids fundraiser this Sunday and you may go home with it!

Details:http://www.facebook.com/events/265185553533631/

Smile Rescue Fund for Kids

 

Come Join Us-Football Sunday for Saline

Are you going to be in the city on Sunday, December 11th?  Join us at Bar 29, 3rd Avenue and 29th Street at 12:30 – 6:00 pm.  Stop by, have a beer and watch some football.  A $10.00 donation and your beer is on us!  We will be raffling off some sports memorabilia, 50-50, etc.  Most of all you will be helping a little girl in Kenya start a new life.  Bring your friends.  More details on Facebook. While you’re there “like us” to follow our progress.

News Update: Saline is Scheduled for her 1st Surgery

I just got an email stating that we have raised enough money to fund Saline’s first of three major surgeries!  She will be admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital on December 13th and her surgery is scheduled for December 16th.  Here is a little info about her surgeon.

Dr. Ferdinand Wanjala Nangole – Did his Plastic Surgery fellowship at the University of Cape Town (UCT), is employed by the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and practices Plastic Surgery in Nairobi. Ferdinand is a fellow of the European Board of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (EBOPRAS).  He is a member of the KNH multi-disciplinary microvascular team and is an Operation Smile volunteer surgeon as well as a Smile Train Partner.

The first surgery will focus on her cleft palate, lip and part of her nose.  This will make a big quality of life difference for Saline.  She will be able to eat without food coming out of her nose.  Her speech will improve and most of all, she will begin looking like other kids!

With your help we have raised enough for her first surgery, but we need more money for the next two.

Next fundraising event: Sunday December 11- NYC Bar 29 – Football Sunday

Click here for details on Facebook

Bad Day or Good Day

Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Today was a busy day in our chartless, paperless all digital orthodontic office. Electronic check in, chairside charting and imaging, digital radiography all enhance our ability to serve our patients well. However, this afternoon our servers went down and our internet phones shut down. I was immediately in contact with our IT guys, who told me it was related to the recent electrical storm. I fell behind schedule and patients and parents were kept waiting. In the middle of the chaos, one of the moms comes over and gives me a check for the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids and later another mom stuffed a one hundred dollar bill into my hands to be donated to the fund. Wow. How about that. Bottom line: today was a good day.

We are up and running!

I’m happy to report that the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids is officially up and running. This is truly a collaborative effort and I’m so appreciative of the support.  A special thank you Ana Sharpe for designing our logo, Mary Kay Miller for hosting the site, Amy Epstein for developing the website content, Melissa Studin for the legal support, and Alex Dagum for joining the Board.

Our first challenge (opportunity) is helping a ten year old girl from Kenya named Saline. You can read her story here. It will take about $15-20,000 to provide the corrective facial surgery needed to restore her face. I would like you to consider joining us. Just email me (leon@smilerescuefund.org) your name and I’ll get you involved. Don’t have the time? No problem, we now accept cash, check, all major credit cards and PayPal. Either way, we can use your support.

Hang on Saline, were coming.