An Update on Dunia & Saline

Dunia is a true inspiration.

After winning the New York State Wrestling Championship as an eighth grader in 2022, Dunia’s incredible journey continued as he recently placed 3rd in the tournament. He even was featured on ESPN. Dunia’s unwavering dedication to his craft and his determination to pursue his dreams are truly inspiring. We are so proud of his hard work and achievements. He is a true champion and inspiration!

Saline continues to thrive..

In 2021, Saline returned to Kenya and decided to pursue a vocational education at X-elle Beauty College. With the support of our generous SRFK donors, she was able to cover all of her tuition and living expenses, allowing her to focus on her studies. Since then, Saline successfully completed her course in beauty therapy and thrives in her new field. Her ultimate goal is to rent a house and build a successful career doing what she loves. 

Donate to the Cause 

We would like to thank all of the SRFK volunteers for their continued emotional and financial support. None of this would happen without you!

Please consider donating $10 to sponsor a child in our LEAP program, an initiative to offer hot school lunches to 100 children in Africa. Click to donate:

Farewell Saline

I have mixed emotions as I tell you that Saline will be returning home to Kenya on May 2, 2021.

On the one hand, I’m so happy to have had an opportunity, as many of you have had, to play a role in her development from a young self-conscious child to a confident young woman. On the other hand, I’m sad that she is going away. I know I speak for many of you when I say that she has touched the lives of those who have gotten to know her.

It is somewhat comforting to know that she will be attending a vocational school to learn a trade and all tuition and living expenses will be paid through the generosity of our SRFK donors. I cannot say enough about the generosity of the entire Tame family. They have not only opened up their home to Saline but have, more importantly, opened up their hearts. I would be remiss if I did not mention Duncan Owange, Saline’s teacher and advocate, who has worked tirelessly since Saline was young, to help her achieve a better life. In addition, my hat comes off to Dr. Alex Dagum, who devoted so many hours in the operating room, to transform Saline’s life. She now has a chance at a more normal life and I am certain that everyone who knows her, wishes her the best.

We have started a dedicated fund for Saline. Any donations appreciated. See Paypal button on the right or click here to donate.

Smile Rescue’s LEAP Program: an update..

One of the more difficult issues facing our friends in Kenya is the lack of nourishment for children in school- that’s where the Smile Rescue LEAP program comes in. Our ‘Lunch for Educational Achievement Program’, is an initiative to offer hot school lunches to 100 children in Africa. Through this program orphans and other vulnerable learners are given regular access to hot lunch during school, making the pursuit of an education realistic and investing in their futures.

An update on the LEAP Program and the National Examinations results: The entire SRFK team is happy to share that the top three pupils in the 2020 class are all beneficiaries of the LEAP Program. LEAP (Lunch for Educational Achievement Program) has had a very positive effect this year due to the tremendous support we have had by our donors. Let’s continue to support and nourish these vulnerable learners so they can continue to receive the education that they truly deserve.

Since a small donation goes a long way in their country, the SRFK have calculated that we can feed a child for a month for $10 and are looking for corporate donors to sponsor a child. This equates to $120 per year; currently we have a goal of covering 100 children. Please consider pledging a recurring $10 per month to sponsor a child. 

Click HERE to donate.

**Don’t forget to select “make this a monthly donation”.

The Smile Rescue LEAP Program: Lunch for Educational Achievement Program

The Smile Rescue Fund brings children from other countries for life saving craniofacial surgeries. The environments that the recipients come here from are at least partially if not directly responsible for the defect or injury that we are correcting.  When a child has surgery and is ready to go back home, as a foundation, we face the reality that we are sending them back to that same tough environment.

Thanks to the tremendous support we have by our donors we have been able to make positive changes in their home countries. In the past we have provided methods to collect rain water in Kenya (since clean water is scarce).  We have provided solar lighting to cut down on the expense of kerosene lamps.  We have covered the start up costs for making uniforms so that children who cannot afford them, can attend school.  We have provided wheel chairs for many kids and adults who could not otherwise fully participate in what life offers them.  We have also had a generous donor family provide a boarding school education to our first recipient, so that she could get the education she deserved. 

One of the more difficult issues facing our friends in Kenya is the lack of nourishment for the kids there in school. According to Owange Duncan, the Smile Rescue LEAP Program targets orphans and other vulnerable learners who:

“Hardly receive lunch at home so they choose to remain at school without a meal throughout the school day. Go back home and participate in preparing the lunch and other domestic chores making them to miss first lessons in the afternoon nearly everyday and also get back to school too tired to concentrate. They’re always absent from to school due to various challenges associated with extreme poverty. Their academic achievements have, therefore, been so low over the years. A national statistical survey conducted some years back established the school as one in a very poor neighborhood and some pupils benefitted from sanitary towels & shoes among others. The program, therefore, seeks to offer lunch for education” – Owange Duncan

Since a small donation goes a long way in their country, the SRFK have calculated that we can feed a child for a month for $10 and are looking for corporate donors to sponsor a child.  This equates to $120 per year; currently we have a goal of covering 100 children. Please consider pledging a recurring $10 per month to sponsor a child. Click here:

**Be sure to select “Make this a monthly donation”

Update 2019 – Welcome Back Saline!

Saline is back!

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that we were able to raise enough money to bring back Saline for additional surgery.  It has been five years since she was here and was only 12 years old at the time. She is now a 17-year-old young lady and is so happy to be back.

She arrived in November and was accompanied by her teacher, mentor, and family friend, Duncan.  Saline has had a comprehensive medical physical exam and her immunization vaccines are now up to date thanks to Stony Brook Medicine-Pediatrics.

Saline is living with Kerri and Mike Tame, and their daughters Courtney, Brooke, and Paige.  The Tames have graciously offered to host her for as long as she stays here for treatment.  The entire Tame family has always been gracious and we sincerely appreciate their generosity.  Duncan stayed with Saline at the Tame’s until a week ago when he flew home to Kenya to go back to work and his family.  Duncan has been a godsend and we appreciate all he continues to do for Saline as well as the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids in Kenya.

Dr. Alex Dagum and the entire medical team at Stony Brook Hospital as well as Dr. Richard Faber, at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, continue to volunteer their services on behalf of Saline.  After an extensive diagnostic workup, a comprehensive treatment plan has been developed to prevent the recurrent infections she has been experiencing as well as to improve the esthetics and function of her nose and lips.  This will involve a series of surgeries over the coming months.  At this time, efforts are being made to have Saline attend school during her stay here.  We invite you to contact me ( if you would like to visit with Saline or take her out somewhere.  Bowling, movies, aquarium, the city are a few suggestions.

I want to thank all of the SRFK volunteers for their continued emotional and financial support.  None of this would happen without you.  Tax-deductible contributions can be made payable to Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, P.O.Box 766, Setauket, NY 11733 or via the donation button on the sidebar of this website.

Welcome Back Saline!

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!


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


Stony Brook Dental School Bake Sale


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: 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.


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