The Children

Facial deformities result in many challenging medical issues, including feeding problems, hearing loss, unintelligible speech and recurrent ear infections. But the social and psychological consequences that result are just as devastating.

The stigma of looking and sounding different leads to a very difficult and lonely life. Often, peers, communities and even relatives shun lovable and loving children, ashamed of their appearance and speech and powerless to affect positive change. Some are hidden away in locked rooms, deprived of education, medical care and any socialization with the outside world.

These children can be helped. With adequate funding, they can receive the treatment and care they need to eat, speak and look more like other members of society, enabling them to lead normal, happy, and productive lives.

A child in need: Saline’s Story

Saline is a young girl who lives in the Nyanza Province of Kenya. She was the third child born to her parents, but due to one sibling’s recent death, there are only two remaining. At the age of 3, she began suffering from an ‘unknown disease’. Her parents sought medical care from local dispensaries and later at a district hospital, but due to financial constraints (both parents are peasant farmers) they were unable to pay for treatment.

She was diagnosed with Noma, derived from the Greek “nomein” meaning “to devour”. It is a devastating bacterial necrosis that develops in the mouth and ravages the faces of its victims. It destroys both the soft and bone tissues of the face and mostly affects young children between the ages of two and six. Often called “the face of poverty, poor hygiene and malnutrition have been linked to this disease and the fatality rate is 90%. Saline has difficulty eating and is prone to further infection, however it is the social ramifications that are the most damaging.

One of Smile Train’s regional directors contacted Leon about support for Saline after meeting her on a recent trip. Saline’s parents heard of a Smile Train visit and went to the local hospital hospital hoping that the cost of Saline’s surgery would be covered. Unfortunately, her condition was too severe to be funded by any of the world known charities.

The Director told Leon about Saline’s condition:

“Saline is a very lonely girl who is not able to socialize with her peers due to her condition. They keep a distance away from her and sometimes laugh at her. This has also disrupted her learning and currently she is class 2 instead of class 4. Her parents could not even afford transport costs to St. Elizabeth Mukumu where they were hoping Saline could get free treatment (this is the partner hospital where I saw her) and her teacher Mr. Owange offered to bring her. She also lacks any medical records including the immunization card which were burnt when their house accidentally burnt down.”

The Smile Rescue Fund for Kids was created for the children with no other hope. Leon has been on 12 overseas missions and has seen thousands of children turned away. With funding, Smile Rescue Fund for Kids hopes to provide the surgery Saline needs to lead a normal, healthy life.