THE PROBLEM Smiling is a gift that you can take for granted if you were born normal. This is different for us who were born with cleft lip or cleft palate or both! We spent years fighting these facial defects with a lot of surgeries and visits to a bunch of doctors. We are here to tell you our story and for you to understand our situations better! Cleft lip and cleft palate, also known as orofacial cleft, is a group of conditions that include cleft lip, cleft palate, or both together. They are a type of birth defect. These birth defects while we were in development during the pregnancy phase. Cleft lip is a split on the upper lip, and it looks like a gap in the skin. A cleft palate, that can be associated, is a split on the roof of the mouth. They happen because of genetic and environmental factors, which cause inexistence of enough tissue in our mouth to join normally. These defects lead us to a lot of dental and hearing problems, as well as difficulties in eating and speaking. Low self-esteem and depression for being so different from everyone else, are common feelings we have in school and that we try to struggle every day. However, we believe we were born this way for a reason! These defects are correctable via corrective surgeries, and we are among the lucky ones as we were selected by Ronald McDonald House Charities Malaysia (RMHC Malaysia) to receive their full financial support for me to undergo a series of surgeries and treatments, under the Gift of Smile program. We are definitely grateful to RMHC Malaysia to be the sponsorship recipients which allow us to face people and smile confidently while leading a normal life and doing anything we like.
THE SOLUTION Gift of Smile by RMHC Malaysia provides the opportunity for children born with cleft lip and palate to undergo the corrective surgeries at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM) and other partnering hospitals in other regions. RMHC Malaysia realised that children born with the defect are huge in number as the statistics show that a cleft lip and palate defect child is born in every 700 births in Malaysia. We are grateful to be together with RMHC Malaysia to reach to all Malaysians to help us in our effort to bring back the smile in children that are born like us, to restore their confidence and ability to lead normal lives as healthy and happy adults. Cleft lip and palate is a correctable defect! It should not be left untreated! Children left with untreated cleft lip and palate may live with speech impairment, eating and drinking difficulty and may be affected psychologically.
This programme consists of 2 stages: ● Stage 1: ○ Involving corrective surgery of cleft lip and palate in the initial stage. ○ The surgery is fully supported by RMHC Malaysia. ○ Accommodation and transportation are also supported by RMHC for families who had to travel long distances.
● Stage 2: ○ Exclusive for children that have undergone Stage 1 corrective surgery on cleft lip and palate in the period of 5 years prior. ○ Orthodontics and jawbone surgery is also supported by RMHC Malaysia at the partnering hospital(s).
THE IMPACT Since the inception of this programme in 2004, more than 450 children have undergone corrective surgery that involved almost RM5 million. Still, 1 in every 700 new-born babies, in Malaysia, are born with cleft lip and palate. Thus, there are a lot of children out there who need the support for corrective surgeries, to allow them to have the gift of smile, to live a normal, healthy and happy future. We want to impact the lives of hundreds of children by providing full funding for their mandatory first-level surgery at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM).