NOW! Bali Magazine, Bali / September 2011
Yayasan Senyum, the Smile Foundation of Bali, began to assist Indonesian people with craniofacial disabilities, including cleft palate which can seriously impair basic life functions like eating and speaking. Through the foundation, founder Mary Northmore-Aziz aims to give everyone a good reason to smile.
How did you come up with the foundation?
Craniofacial disabilities are not problems that you see everyday because people tend to protect their children and loved ones from unwanted attention. People with craniofacial disabilities often feel like outsiders and may sense that no one in their home community knows what it's like to have their experience. A face is difficult to hide and a disfigured face is difficult for others to overlook.
In Many countries, craniofacial disabilities are treated shortly after birth, but is not the case in the poorer parts of Bali. Craniofacial disfiguring, but can also lead to difficulties with nutrition and communication. As such, treatment is essential. However, treatment is not just expensive, but it can involve extensive travel from the individual's home environment as well a complex bureaucratic process.
This is exacerbated by a number of factors: many of the people requiring treatment are poor, often illiterate and they may not even speak Indonesian. So not only do they have trouble paying for treatment (which may also involve accommodation and travel expenses), but when they arrive for treatment they have trouble completing admission forms and understanding the processes which need to be undertaken. In addition, many patients have not previously left their home villages, making the experience particularly difficult and traumatic, which is strengthened by the social isolation caused by their disabilities.
It was for these reasons that the foundation was founded; to help the people with craniofacial disabilities, who are simply to help themselves. NOW! Bali went to speak to Mary Northmore-Aziz about her mission.
What are the Craniofacial Abnormalities?
Craniofacial abnormalities are defects or deformities involving the face and the skull. These abnormalities occur when the growth of skull and facial bones is affected leading to deformation of shape of the head and the face. Long facial clefts can also occur involving the lip, cheek, eyelids and facial bone leading to sever facial disfigurement. Some of these abnormalities may involve eye or ear resulting in misshapen or absent organs. Each abnormality needs to be evaluated individually and treated accordingly.
What does the foundation do?
The Smile Foundation facilitates operations for cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial deformities, due to birth defects, accidents, or tumours. The organization helps poor people from Bali, Lombok and further east, and raises funds for operations whether in Bali or Adelaide, Australia at the Australian Craniofacial Unit.
Will a child be normal after treatment?
The aim of treating children with cleft lip and/or palate is to achieve normal looking and normal sounding well adjusted individuals. The cleft child is likely to have the best possible result in achieving this aim if treated by an organized, well trained multidisciplinary team. When treated at the proper age, normally they have good results. They will be like normal children except a small scar on the lip and will need supervision until adolescence. In addition they might need appropriate intervention by the Plastic Surgeon, the Dentist, the ENT surgeon and the Speech Therapist at appropriate intervals according to individual needs during childhood and adolescence.
How much do the Operations cost?
Normally the cost of these operations would run into several million rupiah for each surgery. However several cleft operations through Yayasan Senyum Bali are sponsored by a non profit organization called 'Smile Train'. Poor patients who cannot afford surgery can be operated completely free of cost under the Smile Train project. In case of other Craniofacial deformities (other than Cleft Lip & Palate), the cost of each surgeries are vary depending on each case.
Has it been easy to find sponsors and/or supporters?
Much of the funding comes from donations from both individuals and organizations. For example, the Australian Consulate General in Bali, working with the Smile Foundation, provided funding for seventy children to have craniofacial surgery. Charity events, such as Adam Gyorgy's piano performance in 2006, are also important to the foundation.
Additional funds are raised from the Smile Shop, which sells second-hand goods, largely from expatriates, but also increasingly old stock from local shops and linen from hotels. The Smile Shop is staffed entirely by volunteers.
Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Bali?
The first time I came in 1983, I was working in Hong Kong, so it was quite near. Lots of my friends in Hong Kong used to come here, and they were all a bit shocked that I'd never been here because I'd travelled a lot, travelled all over Asia, but I never came to Bali. And so they all said to me, "You've got to go to Bali." The next thing I know was I fell deeply in love with the Island.
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