Kylie Jenner’s charitable donations have helped children born with sometimes-fatal cleft palates receive life-saving surgeries that keep them from being malnourished.
Cleft palates are caused by complications during a child’s fetal development stages and if they are not treated, they can lead to difficulty breathing, eating, and speaking, as well as hearing loss.
And some children who are born in communities where deformities are viewed as taboo are even shunned because of them.
A routine surgery can fix a child’s cleft palate and allow them to engage in regular activities, but many children in developing countries do not have access to it.
Last October, 20-year-old reality TV star Jenner decided to raise funds for these children by donating proceeds from her famous make-up kit to Smile Train, an organization that provides cleft palate surgeries for free.
And the children that the organization has helped have been more widely accepted into their communities and they have excelled socially and academically since their operations.
Kylie Jenner has supported a charity called Smile Train, which provides free cleft palate surgeries to children in low-income communities who would not be able to afford them otherwise. She is pictured here in Peru with one child, Mia, that the organization helped in May 2016
‘MIRACLE CHILD’ BORN 24 YEARS AFTER HER PARENTS STARTED TRYING TO CONCEIVE SUFFERS CLEFT LIP
Aasmi’s parents learned that their child would be born with a cleft lip when her mother, Vaishali Kadam, was still pregnant with her. Vaishali was worried that her daughter would never look like other children
Vaishali Kadam, who lives in Ratnagiri-Khed, India, struggled to conceive for 24 years before finally becoming pregnant with a ‘miracle child’ last year.
But Vaishali learned at a prenatal screening that her daughter would be born with cleft lip.
Because of societal pressures, Vaishali and her husband were encouraged to abort their child so she would not shame her family.
They refused. Despite her cleft lip, Aasmi was born otherwise healthy.
Vaishali, concerned about the cost of a cleft palate surgery and the availability of experienced doctors, said that she feared there would be no way to treat her daughter.
Surgeries to treat cleft palates typically cost about $5,000 at the least.
But a surgeon, Dr Mahesh Prabhu, approached her family and said that he could operate on Aasmi for free.
But Vaishali came into contact with a surgeon who had performed thousands of cleft palate operations and she became convinced that there was hope for her daughter. Pictured left to right: Aasmi’s father, Aasmi, Dr Mahesh Prabhu, Vaishali Kadam
Dr Prabhu had already performed more than 2,500 cleft palate surgeries.
Six months later he corrected Aasmi’s lip.
‘She looked so beautiful,’ Vaishali said. ‘All of the people who turned their backs on Aasmi can’t get enough of her now.’
GIRL LIVED WITH CLEFT PALATE FOR YEARS BEFORE LIFE-CHANGING SURGERY MOTIVATES HER TO EXCEL IN SCHOOL
Neha (right) spent years with a cleft palate in her hometown of Hapur, India. Her peers ignored her because of it, and she faced severe health effects, including difficulty eating and talking. Since her cleft palate surgery, though, she has been more social and she has risen to the top of her class. She is pictured here with her mother
Neha (center) is pictured here with her family. When she was born, her parents were not able to afford a cleft palate surgery for their daughter. But because of an organization called Smile Train – which Kylie Jenner partners with – Neha was able to receive the surgery for free
HOW ARE CLEFT PALATES FIXED?
How surgery can cure cleft palates
Cleft palates are common, affecting one in every 700 children. They can occur if a woman smokes, drinks or consumes drugs while pregnant.
If a woman is malnourished while pregnant, her baby will have a higher chance of having a cleft palate.
And a mother’s illnesses or infections while pregnant can result in her child having one.
Lastly, the children of diabetic women are more at risk for developing a cleft palate.
Surgeries to treat the deformities are extremely common, but children in developing countries rarely have access to them.
Other charities that provide these operations to children whose families cannot afford them include: Operation Smile, Transforming Faces Worldwide and Mercy Ships.
Neha lives in an attic space with her family in Hapur, India. Her parents were shocked when their first child was born with a cleft palate, which can lead to malnutrition.
Many children with the birth defect cannot breast feed or drink milk from a bottle, and they have trouble chewing and swallowing when they are older.
When Neha was born she immediately had to have an unrelated emergency surgery on her intestines, which was successful.
But her parents could not afford to also pay for a surgery to correct her cleft palate.
And her case is not unique: more than 170,000 children in developing countries are born with a cleft palate annually.
Neha lived with a cleft palate for years and experienced difficulties eating and talking. According to her family, she struggled to make friends, as she was shunned by her peers because of her deformity.
Even through these difficulties, Neha worked hard in school, rarely missing a day, the family said.
But when her father moved to the urban area of Delhi to look for a job, he found a hospital that Smile Train partners with called Sant Parmanand.
The hospital performed Neha’s cleft palate surgery and provided follow-up care for her, which included speech therapy, for free.
Her family said that she is now more social and is also top of her class, which they say is thanks to her surgery.
Neha’s dream is to become a doctor and help children who are born with health complications, such as herself.
LITTLE GIRL WAS HIDDEN FROM HER MOTHER FOR THREE DAYS AFTER BIRTH BECAUSE MIDWIVES THOUGHT HER CLEFT WAS TOO SHOCKING TO LOOK AT
When Aziba was born with a cleft palate in Bangladesh, nurses took her away from her parents. They were worried that her mother would recoil at the sight of her newborn’s deformity.
They kept Aziba out of her parents’ sight for three days before showing them their daughter.
Her mother, Aisha, said that, even though they had never seen a cleft palate before, they still thought Aziba was stunning.
‘Aziba just stared up at us and started smiling – her smile told us that everything would be okay,’ Aisha said.
Aziba’s grandfather explained his family’s love for his granddaughter, saying: ‘Some people outside of our family said bad things about Aziba but we didn’t care about that. Her smile lights up our world.’
Though her family adored her as she was, they applied for a loan from a bank so that they could pay for a surgery to correct Aziba’s cleft palate.
Aziba’s parents insisted that their daughter was fine the way she was born, but they applied for a bank loan to be able to afford a surgery to fix Abiza’s cleft palate
They were not approved for the loan, but Smile Train gave Aziba the opportunity to develop normally because they provided her with the operation for free
Had they been approved for the loan, they would have faced lifelong debt to afford Aziba’s procedure, but they were not.
However, their worries subsided when they met a Smile Train representative at LMRF Children’s Hospital. They learned that Aziba could have the procedure she needed for free.
After Aziba’s surgery, she was returned to her mother with a swollen smile. Aisha said that her daughter’s smile, once again, told her everything was going to be fine.
‘When we came back home, our whole family was extremely happy. They all hugged Aziba several times,’ she said.