Christmas smiles for young patients participating in George Regional Hospital Mini Smile Week

28-30 November 2016 – A specialist surgical team from the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) in Cape Town will be flying into George next week to perform critical facial reconstructive surgeries as part of the George Hospital Mini Smile week, sponsored by GDS Technologies.

smileThis is the third consecutive George Hospital Mini Smile Week, which takes place from 28 to 30 November 2016. Over the past two years this initiative has assisted more than 19 children from the Central Karoo and Eden District between the ages of six months and 16 years.

This year, 17 children from George, Knysna and Oudtshoorn aged between 1 year and 17 years will undergo a total of 20 reconstructive surgeries for cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial anomalies, giving these children the chance to live their lives with less pain and discomfort and, it is anticipated, greater joy.

Smile Foundation’s Moira Gerszt notes that historically, all these children would have had to travel to the RCWMCH in Cape Town for treatment. However, through valuable partnerships formed between Smile Foundation and the country’s academic and regional hospitals, this is no longer the case.

“Without the commitment of this outreach programme, such progress would not have been made. The collaboration of these hospitals together with Smile to offer these types of surgical interventions so close to local communities has proved very positive. We thank the George Hospital CEO, Michael Vonk, and his administration staff for trusting this partnership, and we look forward to extending this support of the local patient base even further in the years to come. Without our donor Neeren Ramharakh from GDS Technologies, this collaboration would not have materialised, and we thank him for his passion and ongoing commitment to this project,” says Gerszt.

“Around 17% of the patients who go to the RCWMCH for cleft lip and palate conditions come from the Garden Route area. The waiting list at the hospital for these children is between seven and nine months. These young patients would typically have to return to the hospital six times for consultations and follow-ups, costing around R5000 per child. This money would have to come out the parents’ own pockets. But with many of these families working on the farms in the southern Cape region, these are costs they just cannot cover. Unfortunately, children fall through the cracks because of this system; one child undergoing surgery next week is already four years old, yet should have had this surgery at three months of age. This drives home the significance of the George Hospital Mini Smile Week in being able to bring these surgeries direct to the local community,” explains the RCWMCH’s Dr Saleigh Adams, who adds there is such demand for these surgeries, that two theatres are now needed at the George Hospital.

GDS Technologies says its sponsorship of the Mini Smile Week forms part of its broader strategy to nurture a sense of fulfilment within the company.

“Without the passion and commitment to help others, specifically those who are most vulnerable in our communities – our children – we feel a sense of lack, of incompleteness. Being part of this special life journey with Smile Foundation provides that fulfilment and completeness we aim to achieve. GDS Technologies is proud to be associated with Smile Foundation and thankful to play a role in providing the life-changing gift that is these vital reconstructive surgeries,” says Neeren Ramharakh, CEO of GDS Technologies.

“The Smile week has become a highlight on the George Hospital calendar. It’s result of a partnership between several organisations, all working together towards a common goal.   However, it’s the partnership that has built up between the people, even more than the partnership between the organisations that makes the Smile Week such a tremendous success. It’s always a privilege to see the team in action and to witness their passion, professionalism and team work to care for these young patients,” says  Michael Vonk, Chief Executive Officer of the George Hospital

An official George Hospital Mini Smile Week media briefing will take place on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 09h00 in the boardroom of the administration division at George Regional Hospital.

About Smile Foundation:

We’re About Putting Smiles on the Faces of Children in South Africa!

Smile Foundation is a South African NGO that assists children with any type of facial or other conditions, to receive reconstructive surgery within South Africa. We help children who suffer from treatable facial anomalies such as cleft lip and palate, all burns, Moebius syndrome (facial paralysis) and other conditions. We are currently based in 8 Academic Hospitals around South Africa. We are investing in the medical teams we work with, through an Academic Skills programme, and we assist the hospitals by purchasing equipment for use by the Departments of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Our Chief Patron, the late honourable Nelson Mandela’s wished for us to assist as many children around South Africa as possible to alleviate the stigma attached to living with a facial condition. For more information, contact Smile Foundation on or 0861 276 453. Make a donation today! Help put a smile on a child’s face today! SMS “Smile” to 38413 to donate R10.

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