Reflections of a cleft child

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.


News that a documentary, set in India, and dedicated to The Smile Train, has been nominated for a Hollywood Oscar is just about the biggest boost imaginable for the cleft charity.

Smile Pinki is the true story of Pinki and Ghutaru, two young girls in rural India born desperately poor whose cleft lips have made them social outcasts. Their journey, which culminates in cleft surgery at the G.S. Memorial hospital, is – according to those who have seen the film – intensely moving.

Read these words from Steven Levitt, the acclaimed author of ‘Freakonomics’:  “I watched it with my children. They’ve never seen anyone with a cleft, because in the United States, every baby born with the condition gets surgery within a few months. Only one of my four children (Nicholas) expressed the revulsion that many adults feel when seeing children with clefts.

“The other three were transfixed by what they saw and watched from beginning to end. If they hadn’t been paying so much attention to the screen, they would have had the chance to see something they have never seen before: tears coming from their dad’s eyes.”

I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I understand its premise very well. Twice I have visited Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India. Twice I have had tears in my eyes that refused to go away. Twice I heard story after story similar to those of Pinki and Ghutaru; stories of children, teenagers and adults from backgrounds of abject poverty who have had the double misfortune to have been born with clefts or have children with clefts.

I was told of a child whose mother also had a cleft. After the child was operated on successfully, the mother (in her 30s) chose to have the operation, having suffered shame and ridicule her whole life until that point. Dr Mukunda Reddy, who heads the wonderful medical team at Nizam’s, recounted the story to me of the mother being so delighted with her new look that very shyly she asked him: “Would you mind operating on my mother too?” Yes, three generations of women in the same family had suffered from clefts. Only when the modern-day miracle work of The Smile Train was discovered could anything be done about it.

Take a look, a long look, at the image of Pinki (a real child, remember; this is a documentary) looking into her mirror. Look at her eyes, not her mouth. They tell you everything you need to know about why The Smile Train is such a beautiful, life-transforming, life-affirming charity.

The travel retail community has done so much to help the work of The Smile Train – donating generously on numerous occasions and, just as importantly, assisting the charity’s visibility at consumer level. Everyone in this industry who has supported the cause – and there are many – will join me in hoping that Smile Pinki wins an Oscar on February 22. The exposure will be priceless.

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  • we thank the director for showing this documentary to the whole world.i hope this will be an eye opener for all of us..and educate those children who are naughty to bullying these physically impaired children…..they dont even realize the impact of these things to emotional feeling of a child..and they will carry these when they grow up…