Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who is also the Goodwill Ambassador for Smile Train, has spoken against bullying of patients with cleft. Catriona has called for more empathy and early treatment through partner hospitals of the Smile Train.

In her recent 2-day visit to Kenya, Miss Gray had the chance to interact with patients as part of Miss Universe Organization’s partnership with Smile Train. The visit was aimed at raising awareness of the issues faced by children living with unrepaired clefts in the developing world.

The partnership with Smile Train provides opportunities for the reigning Miss Universe and international titleholders to get involved with the organization’s initiatives in the over 90 countries where the charity provides free and comprehensive care. After her reign as Miss Universe, Catriona has now become the Smile Train Goodwill Ambassador globally.

It is estimated that 1,300 children are born with cleft in Kenya every year. Smile Train has been in Kenya since 2002 and has so far provided comprehensive care to over 10,700 patients who continue to live productive lives.

Smile Train invests heavily in capacity building of cleft professionals including surgeons, nurses, orthodontists, anesthetists, nutritionists and speech therapists to provide sustainable and quality healthcare systems at local community level. The charity has over 245 partner hospitals and over 255 partner surgeons across 40 countries in Africa.

Speaking at a press conference in Kenya, Miss Gray stated, “Patients with cleft not only experience difficulties breathing, eating, and speaking but they also suffer long-term psychological trauma from social stigma. With treatment, children with clefts can overcome these challenges to live a happy, healthy life. Throughout the month of October, let us carry the message that all smiles are beautiful, showing compassion and creating awareness of the bullying patients experience. Let us also encourage parents to take their children to receive free treatment across Kenya.”

On her part, Smile Train Program Director East Africa Mrs. Jane Ngige-Muturi called for more efforts in advocacy for patients to receive early intervention of cleft care.

“Smile Train provides treatment for patients of all ages; we however recommend that they receive treatment at infancy stage for them to grow up and live healthier and be better integrated into society. Children can receive treatment as early as 3 months and the surgery which only takes at least 45 minutes shows immediate transformation,” said Mrs. Ngige-Muturi.