Smile Train, an international children's cleft charity held an event at India Habitat Centre to raise awareness about the facial birth difference of cleft lip and palate and the free treatment available at Smile Train partner hospitals.
Smile Train Advisory Council member and Paralympics Medalist Padma Shri Khel Ratna Dr Deepa Malik and Miss Diva Universe 2019 Vartika Singh, along with LIVA Miss Diva 2020 finalists joined children and doctors to show support for the cause and mark the conclusion of the journey of the Smile Torch, a national initiative by Smile Train India. Over the last year, Smile Torch has travelled to 24 states and Union territories in India and symbolically represents Smile Train's efforts in dispelling myths surrounding clefts.
This was followed by a ramp walk where Vartika Singh and the 20 LIVA Miss Diva 2020 finalists walked hand in hand with the children to show solidarity with Smile Train and children born with clefts.
Speaking at the event, Dr Deepa Malik, who has contributed to a number of cleft repair surgeries herself, said, "Awareness about clefts needs to spread in all corners of India to ensure a bright future for children born with clefts. Being a part of Smile Train India's Advisory Council, I am overjoyed to see the support the Smile Torch has found across India."
From Srinagar to Madurai, Imphal to Jodhpur, the Smile Torch ensured that the message that comprehensive cleft care is available free of cost was carried to every corner of the country. It even made its mark at the Wagah Border, where the Border Security Force hosted it. During its journey, Smile Train Goodwill Ambassadors Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, cricketer Harbhajan Singh and Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur-Marwar and various public figures including Governor of Manipur Najma Heptullah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Puducherry Lt. Governor Dr Kiran Bedi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Union Cabinet Minister Arjun Munda, among other eminent individuals, held it aloft to pledge their support to the cause of clefts.
"There are so many myths associated with clefts. I am here to spread the message that clefts can be easily treated because every kid deserves a chance to smile confidently," said Vartika Singh, who was crowned as the winner of Miss Diva in 2019, and joined the Smile Torch in Puducherry.
"We are grateful to all our partners and supporters, whose contributions have made all the difference. We are confident about achieving our goal of supporting one million successful cleft repair surgeries in India very soon," said Mamta Carroll, Smile Train India's Vice President & Regional Director Asia.
Smile Train recently celebrated 20 years of operations in India and has supported more than 600,000 successful cleft surgeries. The NGO continues to expand its network of partners hospitals, doctors, donors and supporters by following a sustainable model for providing cleft care in the country.