What I’ve learned so far in my 30 days with Smile Train

Mabuhay Philippines !

I’m in Manila as a volunteer in Smile Train to help children with cleft lip and/palate as a resource development and communication specialist. As an Indonesian, I don’t have any big adjustment in culture or ways of living by moving to Manila. And I’ve been to Manila few times before for work so I’m quite familiar with the city and the people . And off course most important is that physically I look very similar like a Filipino so people talk to me in Tagalog all the time 😀

My key highlights on these 30 days are definitely about my interaction with the children and their family and learning a whole lot more about cleft – what’s the caused, what’s the impact , how to treat it and what’s life with cleft feels like. Every encounter with them, seeing and hearing their life story , really open my eyes to a whole different world.

Coming from Asia background, I am familiar with cleft but apparently I was oblivious about what it means to have cleft and the impact to life. It didn’t occurs to me that most children with cleft lip and/palate are facing difficulties in eating, breathing and also speaking. Babies with cleft need to be fed in a specific technic so that the food/milk can be swallowed properly. Not to mention that they often becomes a target of bullying, especially when they grow older. And all of this has makes them reclusive, and not able to live a normal life .

I learnt that a 45 minutes repair surgery can treat cleft and changes the life of the child forever. And yes this is my top highlights for sure, It’s my very 1st experienced to witnessed two surgery in the OR, one was for cleft palate and the other one is for cleft lip. The surgery was done by plastic surgeons and the doctor was explaining clearly about the methods. It’s best to have the repair surgery earlier, starting from 3 months old.

With the Doctors

One of the challenge here is to spread the information, to reach more children in need. There’re still a lot of children with cleft out there that needs our help, estimated 4000 children born with a cleft annually in Philippines, It’s a huge number. So yes I want to raise more awareness on children with cleft and I want to create more smiles !

If you want to know more about Smile Train and how to get involved, please go to https://www.smiletrain.ph and if you want to help to fund the surgery please click here https://donate.smiletrain.ph/SmileTrainWeb_PH/donate.do

Let’s change the world one smile at a time 🙂

Chi- 6 years old Smile Train patient, he has done his cleft lip & palate surgery and now continuing with speech therapy session in Philippine Band of Mercy – Smile Train partner hospital







  1. Hi Desi, thanks for sharing a little piece of your PULSE experience with us. The work you’re doing is so impactful for many. It was great to speak with you and Kimmy last week, I now know more about the work you and the small, close-knit team are doing to change the lives of children and their families. I wish you all the best in the coming months. Take care.

  2. Desi, what a joy it must be to see kids who have had surgeries & the impact it has had on their lives! You seem to ne enjoying the field trips and you fit right in with the scrubs !! Keep us posted! Best wishes, Manu.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s