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.



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/

Volunteers Needed

Dear Smile Rescue Fund Friends and Family,

Dunia (we had formerly been referring to him as Erick) arrived at JFK last week and has been settling in with his host family, the Creans, nicely. He’s an adorable little boy with a lot of spirit despite his circumstances and condition: he’s 8 years old, and weighs a mere 46 pounds, and is only 46 inches tall. And, as you know, he was maimed by a chimpanzee, which left him without lips, and with severe facial scarring.

While he undergoes treatment at Stony Brook over the coming months, we hope to provide him with new experiences, keep his spirits up, introduce him to new people and from a practical standpoint, support his host families.

That’s where you come in. In the short term, we’re looking for volunteers to take Dunia:

  • Tuesday or Thursday evening from 4:30-8:00pm for dinner
  • A weekend day
  • An entire weekend
  • For hospital stays during the day and overnight (dates TBA)
  • To and from doctor’s appointments
  • And work with him as a mother’s helper during the weekend (good for kids that need community service hours)

After the New Year, we’re looking for people to take him Monday through Friday from 7:15am- 4:30pm and are seeking additional families interested in hosting.

If you can help at all, please contact Jennifer Crean directly at Jennifer@smilerescuefund.org.

Many thanks,


Erick is arriving on November 21st

Dear Smile Rescue Fund Friends,

We have great news: Erick will be arriving on November 21st to begin his treatment journey. A reminder that Erick (8 years old) was attacked by a chimpanzee in his home country, The Republic of the Congo. Though he (miraculously) survived, his face was left extremely disfigured. Read the entire story here. He will be treated at Stony Brook Hospital to reconstruct his face so he can eat properly again (he weighs only 40 pounds now) and regain some semblance of normalcy in his life.

We have arrangements for accommodations for Erick and his companion, but need your help with:
-weekend hosting
-transportation to/from the hospital, doctor’s appointments and excursions
-offsetting the cost of food and incidentals

If you can lend a hand, please email amykepstein@gmail.com. For donations, please visit our website and click on the “donate now” link: www.smilerescuefund.org.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Leon & the SRFK team

Boy from Congo Attacked by Chimpanzee – SRFK will Help

–Smile Rescue Fund for Kids is Sponsoring Another Child–

Erick is a young boy who lives in The Republic of the Congo.  He was attacked by a chimpanzee and though he miraculously survived, his face was left extremely disfigured.  He lost both his upper and lower lips and has extensive scarring along the right side of his face.  This has left him with oral incompetence (inability to close his mouth) making it extremely difficult for him to eat or drink.  At present he is seriously malnourished, weighing only 42 pounds.

To make matters worse, he has been abandoned by his family.

He was found by some health care volunteers and referred to Smile Rescue Fund for Kids for help.  We plan on bringing him to Stony Brook University Hospital for the necessary reconstructive plastic surgery Erickh needs to be able to nourish himself.

We are looking for help with the following:

1) Fund raising volunteers -schools, youth clubs, religious organizations, etc.

2) Local families willing to provide temporary housing for Erick

3) Individuals willing to provide transportation to medical visits and hospital stays

4) Clothing donations

5) Tax deductible donations (click the “Donate” button or mail us a check)

Please share this post on social media, we need your help.

For additional information, contact me directly:

Dr. Leon Klempner


Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Mark Remigio, CLU,CFP Donates $1000 to SRFK

We would like to thank Mark Remigio from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney for becoming our first Corporate Sponsor.  Mark presented Dr. Klempner with a check for $1000 which will be utilized for the next child in need of life changing surgery.

With Saline back home studying hard at her boarding school,  SRFK is hard at work looking for their next recipient.  Smile Rescue Fund for Kids depends on the kindness of our friends, family and community.   Join us in helping one child at a time.

News From Kenya

highfiveI just got an email update from Duncan.  He reports that Saline is doing well and will also be beginning her next school session this week.  It is with much pride that I can report that we now have nine (9) 5000 litre clean water collection tanks in place, 214 solar lamps and an active self-sustaining sewing program that has produced over 200 school uniforms.  This was all made possible by your generous donations.

The Smile Rescue Fund for Kids has grown into a grass roots charity that is now screening additional children with facial deformities to bring here for corrective surgery.

We can use your help, every few dollars helps.   Click here to make your tax-deductible donation.


Saline is Going Home….

SalineIt is with mixed emotions that I write this post. It has been one year since Saline stepped off the plane at JFK with a small bundle of her belongings in her hands and hope in her eyes. She had her face covered to avoid attracting attention as she held Duncan’s hand. That day she began a journey that would change her life and that of those that know her as well.

On the one hand I am so happy and grateful that with the help of Dr. Alexander Dagum and his colleagues from Stony Brook University Children’s Hospital, Saline had the large hole in her face repaired and now has  a new palate to separate her mouth from her new nose.  She is less prone to infection and can speak clearly.  However, perhaps as importantly, she has her self-image restored. She now walks with her head held high and a smile on her face. I’m happy that a little girl with little hope now has a chance to live a productive life with the chance to achieve her dreams and aspirations. I’m grateful that because of the help of our generous donors and supporters, she will return to a village with cleaner water to drink, solar lighting instead of darkness and expanded educational opportunities (see previous blog). I’m equally grateful for the opportunity Saline has given us back here in our village and the many lives she has affected.

However, there is also sadness in seeing her leave. After living here for a year, it will not be easy for her to go back to her village. Although we’re doing our best to look out for her, of course we’re all concerned about her future. At the same time, we are very fortunate to have Duncan and his family to watch over her, which fills us all with hope and gratitude. I’m very happy to report that funding has been secured for her to attend a private boarding school.  There, she will receive regular meals, a bed to sleep on and the opportunity to receive a good education.

The challenge now is for Saline to take everything she’s learned, and been given, and harness it to make a future for herself. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we wish her all the best of luck, and that she will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Good luck Saline, we have done everything we could have done. The rest is up to you.


P.S.  At SRFK, we believe that every child deserves a chance.  Our moto is “one child at a time”.  We are currently in contact with a number of peace corp volunteers around the globe.  Depending on donations, we will begin working to help another child soon.  There are over 4 million children waiting for corrective facial surgery worldwide.  Although our work has just begun, we have cause for celebration – one down.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or suggestions.  Just click here and see “Reply” box below article.

Mission Accomplished – Thank You Letter From Duncan

wheelchairI am happy to report to you that we have now received all the items that you helped raise funds to buy. The last bit, the wheelchairs, was not easy because of the many hurdles the transporter lay on our way and it made me take such a long time that caused a lot of inconveniences to all. We’ve had to postpone the dispatch for quite a long time due to problems caused by other people who wanted to serve their own unjustified interests. All that aside, I am grateful on behalf of my community.

  1. 82 solar lanterns
  2. Tailoring project has begun producing uniforms
  3. (7) wheelchairs on site to help those in need
  4. (7) 5000 ltr water tanks on site for clean drinking water

I have spent this night in Migori trying to send you some pictures but connection is very poor, I pray all will be well. Meanwhile, bravely pass my sincere gratitude to all who helped mobilize for funds, donated and sacrificed their time.

Above all you, we thank you and your family for the self denial and being selfless, you are a blessing. Despite Saline being your main focus to date, you have done this and may our Lord give you life and strength to help others. Thank you so much.  I hope to give you a comprehensive report on what we have so far done soon.