If you've been following this blog, you'll remember that I promised to give you lots of gift ideas for your friends and families--gifts that require no wrapping paper, no bows or ribbons and (best of all) no trips to the mall. Here is one of my favorites: Smile Train.
Smile Train is an international organization which subsidizes cleft palate surgeries for children in developing countries. I bet most of us have met people who were born with cleft palates which were repaired when they were infants, usually leaving only a faint scar on their upper lip. It's a fairly routine surgery in the developed world, so many people don't realize how devastating--even life-threatening--the condition can be. Children with severe clefts cannot speak or even eat. In some parts of the world, children with cleft palates are considered "cursed," and sometimes even left to die.
More than 165,000 children a year are born with clefts. That's the bad news, and it's very bad. The good--no great--news is that with a subsidy of $250, surgeons around the world can repair those defects and give those children a chance at a normal life. It seems incredible, but for less than the cost of a nice video game system, a child's life can be altered forever. Pretty sweet.
A couple of years ago, I "gave" a surgery to those two handsome boys at the top of the page. I wasn't sure exactly how much they would appreciate it, but I will tell you--it is one of the gifts they still talk about today, and I bet they don't remember what else they got that year.
I have no affiliation with Smile Train, except as a donor, but Charity Navigator says that over 80% of all donations go directly toward repairing clefts. In the past 12 years, more than 680,000 children have been helped. After investigating, the New York Times said that Smile Train is "one of the most productive charities--dollar for deed--in the world."
So, if you're thinking that this year, you might want to give someone a gift you don't have to wrap, check out the Smile Train website and see what you think.
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