Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Contribution to the MMI Annual Report 2011

Another year of smiles

Photo: © Smile Train Itala
Photo: © Smile Train Itala

In 2011 Smile Train Italia and its volunteers involved in humanitarian projects have succeeded in giving back a new smile to more than 1,650 children affected with facial malformations, giving their families a better perspective on their life.

Thanks to the continuous support of volunteers, companies and supportive care foundations, which have supported the initiatives and projects of Smile Train Italia, also in the year 2011 the association was able to successfully carry out 13 surgical missions and to perform projects of health care assistance in the treatment of craniofacial malformations and congenital facial anomalies. It has achieved significant progress in the area of mother and child health improving their lives in local communities by means of programmes focused on health, nutrition and sustainable skills training. 

During this year the volunteers of Smile Train Italia have given their precious professional support and assistance in the following countries and their hospitals: Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa – Cliniques Universitaire de Kinshasa), Iraq (Nassiriya – Military Forces Base of Tallil), Indonesia (Tarakan – Public Hospital), Gabon/assessment mission (Libreville – Public Hospital), Libya (Bengasi – American Centre), Benin (Cotonou – National University Hospital CNHU), Ethiopia (Addis Abeba – CURE International Hospital) and Bangladesh (Gaibandha – The Emirates Friendship). 

As always during the surgical humanitarian missions, the volunteers of Smile Train Italia have identified and selected the serious and particularly relevant clinical cases for which it was not possible to surgically intervene immediately on the spot with the main goal to organize their transport in Italy and to undergo surgery in Italian hospitals of national importance and highly specialized in reconstructive plastic surgery.

During 2011 Smile Train Italia treated in Italy more than 10 children of various nationalities by means of the organization of their transfer in Italian hospitals with the standards of the most advanced international surgical care and giving continuous assistance and support to their families. Within this kind of humanitarian activities, one of the most important projects of the year focused on the story of five Afghan children with facial malformations (the youngest was 14 months old). The five Afghan children, together with their fathers, arrived in Rome on 23rd June 2011 and stayed until 6th July 2011. As soon as they arrived in Rome, the little patients were hospitalized in the Paediatric Department of the Hospital S. Pietro Fatebenefratelli, where they were fondly welcomed by the medical and paramedical personnel of the department. The surgeries were performed by the Smile Train Italia’s surgical team, directed by Dr. Fabio Massimo Abenavoli, the President of the Association. The outcome was positive and the children rediscovered the joy of smiling and of playing carelessly with their parents and their peers.

In combination with the surgeries, a medical training course in the surgical treatment of cleft lip and palate (CLP) was organized, addressed to the Afghan medical physicians who came to Italy together with the five children and to national and international reconstructive plastic surgeons and residents. The course was focused on the surgeons’ professional experience and intensive surgical skills in the diagnosis, treatment and care of child facial malformations.

At the end of the post-operative phase, the children and their fathers stayed at the “Casa per Ferie Ravasco”, a guest house which strongly collaborates with Smile Train Italia, providing its professionalism, willingness, warmth and kindness in welcoming and supporting the little patients. During their stay, the volunteers of Smile Train Italia organized a sightseeing tour in the capital providing a few hours of fun for the children.

In the scientific field, in this year Smile Train Italia organized and attended in various workshops and symposia in plastic reconstructive surgery and, with great honour a representative of the association participated in the open Network Conference organized by Medicus Mundi International and Medicus Mundi Italia about the issue “Mother and Child Health – Before and Past 2005” held in October 2011 in Brescia, Italy. It was a great opportunity as Smile Train Italia had the chance to confront itself with new organizations and corporations, establishing the basis for future multidisciplinary approaches in the field of safety, prevention and assistance to mother and child health-care.

Regarding the charity fundraising activities for 2011, Smile Train Italia organized many prestigious charity events such as the “Gala delle Margherite” a famous charity event which saw a healthy participation of more than 500 people who contributed to giving smiles by supporting the projects and the main “mission” of the association.  For Smile Train Italia, 2011 has certainly been a positive and satisfactory year considering the concrete results of the projects obtained and the support received from new and numerous donors-supporters and partners. The success of the initiatives of Smile Train Italia was possible thanks to the fundamental contribution given by its team of volunteers (medical doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, paediatrics, dentists and logistics), its number is in constant increase and it represents the real “soul” of the association’s work. Without their professionalism, helpfulness and kindness nothing would have been possible.

Contribution by Smile Train Italy to the Annual Report 2011 of the MMI Network. Authors: Fabio Massimo Abenavoli, President, and Marta Romagnoli, Organizational Secretary, Smile Train Italia
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