Journey of Smiles

I’ve written previously about Smile Train, an international children’s charity that provides free cleft repair to those who could otherwise not afford it.

Although there are a number of charities that offer cleft care to children in developing countries, I’ve chosen to support Smile Train for their sustainable approach to cleft care.

In addition to free cleft repair, Smile Train also provides training, funding and resources to make it possible for local doctors in more than 80 developing countries to provide cleft care in their own communities.

According to Smile Train, clefts are primarily an economic problem, not a medical one. For, while the surgical procedure itself is relatively straightforward and low risk, cleft-afflicted families in very poor, and often remote, communities can’t afford the cost of travelling to a clinic that offers cleft care, let alone pay for the operation itself.

Lack of information about cleft also means that families are often unaware of existing cleft treatments. As a result, all too many children with cleft in developing countries do not receive the reconstructive surgery they need and which is so vital for their long-term health and wellbeing.


I’ve been a passionate supporter of Smile Train for many years now, so when an opportunity to observe their work first-hand arose, I jumped at the chance.

And so it is that I am travelling from London to Guatemala this week to visit local clinics that work in partnership with Smile Train to provide free cleft care. During my brief stay in Guatemala, I will also have the opportunity to meet cleft patients and their families.

More than 600 babies are born with a cleft in Guatemala each year, and many of them don’t receive the treatment they need. Poverty and illiteracy are huge problems in rural areas and access to medical resources scarce.

Popular beliefs about the causes of cleft are another problem; many believe that babies born with cleft are cursed or that their mothers are at fault.

I am thrilled to be taking part in Smile Train’s Journey of Smiles to Guatemala, and I will, of course, be sharing my impressions and experiences in future blog posts.


Colour Me Happy

vintage-1409215_640I’ve never thought of myself as particularly fashion conscious, and I don’t know much about style.

Given a choice, I’ll always go for jeans and t-shirt because that’s what I feel most comfortable in.

In the darker depths of my soul, however, lurks a biker chick, and I sometimes dream about setting her free. But my inner good girl gets in the way. Continue reading

To Know It, You Must Live It

I make a meagre living as a reader for a Swedish publisher and right now I’ve got a pile of books waiting to be read, all of them critically acclaimed or otherwise recommended. I’m not complaining, for what could be better for a bookworm like me than getting paid to read?

But today I am not at all interested in any of the books awaiting me. Instead, I pull another book out of my bag. It’s one I found in the local bookshop earlier today and which I am itching to read.

You see, I’ve got a secret passion, a guilty pleasure: graphic novels.

Comics? Cartoons? Nah, graphic novels are more than just comics for adults. At their best, they are works of art, like the book I’ve just got my hands on.

6a010536de2b39970b01b7c87debf4970bHole in the Heart: Bringing Up Beth is a beautifully crafted and deeply engrossing graphic memoir by Henny Beaumont, a London-based artist and portrait painter.

And Beth is her daughter who has Down’s syndrome. Continue reading

All Lives Matter

Last night BBC2 broadcast a documentary by the British actor Sally Phillips, titled A World Without Down’s Syndrome? Phillips is the mother of three young children, one of which has Down’s syndrome and with the introduction of a new non-invasive antenatal test that promises to detect 99% of all cases of Down’s, Phillips raises a crucial question:

4284“What kind of society do we want to live in and whom do we think should be allowed to live in it?” Continue reading