THIS week 38 Eastern Cape children with facial abnormalities will receive free surgery to put the smiles back on their faces – thanks to the Smile Foundation.
Mining magnate Kwape Mmela is sponsoring the Mmela Smile Week at Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital – where children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive free reconstructive surgery for conditions such as cleft lips and palates, absent ears and cranial deformities.
"For the first time in the Eastern Cape, Smile did an outreach in Grahamstown, Graaff-Reinet and Cradock where they gave parents with children who have facial abnormalities the chance to get this assistance,” Smile Foundation’s chief operating officer Moira Gerszt said.
The youngest child who will receive surgery this week is four months old and will be getting a cleft lip repair.
These operations usually cost between R15000 and R18000 each.
Mmela has donated R400000 to the Smile Foundation which covers surgery, transport, pre-theatre counselling and speech therapy costs for the 38 children.
Head of the plastic and reconstructive surgery unit Dr Chris van der Welt had already done nine operations, with the assistance of two plastic surgeons from Johannesburg and Cape Town, by yesterday afternoon.
He said this was a life-changing gift for children who still had their whole lives ahead of them.
Dora Kock of Jansenville was there with her 12-year-old niece, Sinesipho, who will receive surgery for repairs to her cheek and cleft palate tomorrow.
She was two years old when her first operation was done and this will be her fourth operation.
Berthalene Smith’s nine-year-old son Ashton will undergo his 10th operation tomorrow. He sustained head injuries in a car accident in 2010 which left him with severe scarring .
As part of the Mmela Smile Week, workshops are also being held for mothers to discuss mutual problems and give each other advice.
Kolekile Runu said the mothers’ support group sessions were a "phenomenal experience” and "now I know I am not the only mom with a child with a cleft palate”.