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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

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

Clean Water Committee Meeting Update

The following was submitted by Jennifer Crean:
We had discussions about how many families have some sort of rooftop rain collection apparatus currently and whether this brings the family sufficient water during their dry months.
Duncan states that the main rainy season is between March and May, and that the secondary rainy season is between Oct and Nov, and a little into December.  See this link for specific amounts last season http://www.meteo.go.ke/ranet/Wx/seasonal.pdf
Currently there are two types of homes and structures. Those with Thatched roofs and those with Tin roofs.
According to Duncan the best method is roof top collection which fills into big plastic collectors which can be obtained in Kenya.
For homes with Thatched Roofs, either there could be a series of gutters affixed to the exterior walls of the house, (jetting out far enough not to be encumbered by the thatched roof overhang) or Jasper’s idea was to affix a v type structure, tilted which funnels the water into a pipe and into the collector.  He proposes that a bracket would be installed on the roof to hold the collector.
Another option that was discussed is a central collection structure which allows more surface area in which to collect the rainwater, but according to Duncan must be maintained and guarded.
Hannah would like to see funnels and jugs to each house to at least make villagers are able to collect some water each time it rains, and she mentioned that water can be sterilized by leaving it out in a clear plastic jug in the sun.  She also mentioned using a tarp to collect water as well.
It is decided that prior to the big meeting on Oct 25th that we need to meet one more time to narrow the focus and pick a direction.  We also need additional information about cost of items such as the collection jugs, and pvc pipe or gutter material to use.  Duncan will work on getting pricing for these items which will need to be purchased in Kenya.
Work in progress
Your comments are welcome.

How is Saline? – Observations From Duncan

How is Saline doing?  This is a common question asked by many of us. Not just from a medical perspective, but psychologically as well.  I asked Duncan to provide his observations.  I’m happy to report the following:

“It is a great delight that Saline’s confidence and self-esteem is already evident through her more smiles, more giggles and uncontrolled desire to admire herself in the mirror due to the surgeries so far accomplished – closing her once wide deformed palate and face. She tells me to take her pictures and send to her mother, it is irresistible. What a looming great happiness, more and wider smiles once done! Thanking her friends and generous contributors all the way.”   – Duncan

Update: Saline and African Project: Next Meeting – Oct 25th

Saline092013Here is a quick progress update on Saline and the African Project to bring clean water, solar lighting and training for the challenged children in the village.

1) Saline has been undergoing a series of fluid injections in order to expand her skin in anticipation of her next surgery which has been scheduled for Monday, September 16.  Dr. Alex Dagum will perform an extensive series of procedures to close her facial defect with two grafts as well as create a nose using a rib graft.  The surgery will take place at Stony Book Hospital and take approximately 4-5 hours.   There will be two additional surgeries before she can return home.

2) Duncan has been excused from his teaching responsibilities by the Kenyan government for a three month period of time in order to accompany Saline.  In order to keep his job, he will have to return home at the end of September or early October. Unfortunately, due to the number of surgeries and the anticipated healing time, Dr. Dagum does not feel that Saline can return home until sometime in November.  This creates three dilemmas.  First, in order to legally operate on Saline, we need a local guardian.  Second, we need someone to accompany Saline back to Nairobi and the adult that travels with her may need to be her guardian.  Finally, we need a host family that is willing to supervise her recovery.  Volunteers and suggestions are welcome.

3) I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss our findings before Duncan returns home.  Save the date: Friday October 25, 7:00 pm, Emma Clark Library. I realize that everyone may not be available, however it is important to have representation from each committee so we can move forward.

Once again, your participation is greatly appreciated.

Getting to Know Saline and Duncan

salineduncanSaline and Duncan have been here for about a month now and I know that many of you would like to know more about them.  Saline is a very sweet loving child who has been neglected most of her life.  Being born with a facial deformity in a small village has created many challenges for her.  As you would expect, her self-esteem is very poor and she rarely gives you direct eye contact.  Her father passed away last year and I’m told her mother is overwhelmed.  I’ve spent many hours talking with Duncan, her teacher, advocate and all-around great caring man, about life in the villages of Africa.  It was hard for me to believe that so many people are living without the basic necessities of life such as clean water or electricity.  They bathe and drink from a nearby river stream – not the most ideal sanitary conditions.  Much of the little money that most families earn at the market is spent on kerosene for occasional evening lighting.  Most children do not attend school regularly as they are needed for household chores such as gathering firewood for cooking, etc.  For those that do attend, the schools do not have enough teachers or books for all children. The children with physical or mental challenges are essentially neglected.

Duncan is married with five young children of his own.  He is well educated and very well spoken and lives in a village adjacent to Saline’s.  He met Saline in the classroom about five years ago and has become her surrogate father, friend and medical advocate.  It was through his efforts to bring Saline to the local Smile Train screening that I was first contacted.  He has taken time away from his family to bring her to all of her local hospital visits and embassy interviews.  He has become her legal guardian in order to accompany her on her journey here. None of this would ever be happening without Duncan.  Neither of them has ever been on an airplane or even in a private car before.

Despite all the challenges she faces, Saline likes to hold hands and is just a 12 year-old kid. We are not sure of her real age because she has no birth certificate. She likes to play outside and definitely has a good sense of humor.  Earlier this week Duncan, Saline and I took a long walk along the Port Jefferson harbor.  As we walked I looked over at Saline, gave her a light thump on the shoulder and smiled.  She looked up momentarily and then looked down and kept walking.  About 30 seconds later, I got a not-so-light thump on my shoulder as she looked up and smiled.  One step at a time!

www.smilerescuefund.com

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

An Update on Saline……

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I received received an email from my contact in Kenya last week.  Our efforts to bring Saline to the U.S. for surgery have been blocked by her inability to get a visa and passport due to lack of a birth certificate.  For the past year, we have been appealing and diligently looking for a legal diplomatic workaround.  Finally, on January 9th, Saline will be granted an interview for a visa.  Arrangements have been made to transport Saline and her teacher Duncan to Nairobi for the appointment.
As the year comes to a close, on behalf of Saline, I want to thank all of our SRFK loyal friends and supporters.  Your support, contributions and fundraising efforts are well appreciated.   Once we get proper credentials, I will buy airline tickets for Saline and Duncan.  Due to the severity of her facial deformity, Dr. Alex Dagum and his medical team anticipate preforming a series of necessary surgeries and will require her staying here for approximately 6 months.
In the meantime, please forward this email to your friends and online contacts.  Tax deductible donations can easily be made via Paypal on our website.  www.smilerescuefund.org
I remain cautiously optimistic and hope to bring you good news soon.
Leon
Founder, Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, Inc.

$8000.00 Raised by Medical and Dental Residents in NYC Turtle Bay Happy Hour Fundraiser

May 17th was a big day for Saline, a 12 year old girl living in the Kenya.  She will benefit from the money raised which will help fund her remaining surgeries.  The fundraiser was so successful that we will begin looking for another child to help.

Congratulations and credit goes to the event committee organized by Drs. Melanie Baum and Isaac Bar.

The follow are responsible for the successful fundraiser:

Melanie Baum

Isaac Bar

Micah Berman

Annie Brandenburg

Kevin Small

David Rothman

Elysa Kahan

Samantha Safier

Jodi Klempner

If anyone is interested in joining this great cause, please contact me directly:

Dr. Leon Klempner, Founder, The Smile Rescue Fund for Kids

leon@smilerescuefund.org  – Join us on Facebook for follow ups and new upcoming events!