Published: 27th November 2017
These people are putting a smile on the faces of Indian kids with cleft lips
Akila Bharatha Mahila Seva Samaja currently concentrates on helping children getting rid of their cleft lips — this can transform the lives and faces children as they grow older
How many of you have watched the Academy Award-winning documentary, Smile Pinki by Megan Mylan? Remember the little girl Pinki, who had a cleft lip, and how she was isolated and ridiculed everywhere? Every year, there are thousands of Pinkis born in India and most of them find it difficult to afford the treatment. They live in a world of shame and pain and for some, the damage is even life-threatening.
But in the midst of all this, we catch up with Dr Dushyant R Prasad, General Secretary of Akila Bharatha Mahila Seva Samaja, an NGO that helps children with orofacial cleft and other facial malformations by funding their surgeries. More than two decades old, the organisation's initial focus was on child and women welfare. But since 2013, cleft lips have been the primary focus of the NGO. Dr Dushyant tells us why. "It is a cause that not many know of and that is precisely why we wanted to work towards this. Also, unlike other disabilities, here you can give the patient a normal life with the help of a simple surgery. It is completely treatable," he explains.
Happy face: A child after the surgery
Dr Dushyant also paints us a picture of the difficulties that these children go through, owing to this. "Many of them don't even live up to the age of 12. Many are abandoned, locked in their houses and not sent to school. Some are even killed by their parents. We wanted to change it all," he says. Until now, the organisation has funded around 8,000 surgeries. Now, they wish to expand their campaign pan-India and help more children. For this, the NGO has tied up with hospitals and have started a crowdfunding campaign on ImpactGuru.
Identifying patients and convincing them is the toughest part. There are multiple bizarre myths surrounding the disorder
Dr Dushyant R Prasad, General Secratary, ABMSS
With such initiatives, success stories are aplenty. Dr Dushyant shares a few with us. "There was a girl named Neha in Bengaluru, born with a cleft. Her father abandoned the family out of anger. Our team conducted her surgery and now, she is living a normal life. We also came across a family in Wayanad, where the father committed suicide after seeing that his child had a cleft. The child has now been operated on and she is doing well." Now, theirs is a smile that truly stems from the heart.