Delano sixth grade teacher Jessica Benker has led the fundraising effort for Smile Network International for the last three years, raising $7,000 in total donations to provide cleft palate and lip surgery for children in impoverished countries.
Benker took this on to help install a sense of philanthropy in the Delano’s sixth grade class.
Smile Network International is a non-profit organization devoted to changing the lives of children by providing facial surgeries/improvements their families cannot afford. Since 2009, fundraising efforts by DMS six graders have resulted in surgeries for 14 children. In the past, students have been able to meet the children they are helping through Skype. This year, they met Henin Davidson Chub Sub, a five-month old boy from Guatamala, and his mother. She told that class that she and her son traveled 12 hours to receive the surgery, but was very grateful to the doctors who performed it, and the generosity of those at Delano that made it possible. Children with severe cleft palates are often shunned and live in isolation, something Henin will be able avoid. School and a normal childhood are in his future, his mother added.
Another child, Sheny Griselda Juan Andres, has also a benefactor of this fundraising effort. In this case, the severity of her cleft palate made eating difficult. Sheny’s father thanked the students for giving his daughter a chance at a good, full life.
Kim Valentini, Smile Network founded, sat in on the visits.
“You are a part of these children’s futures,’” she told DMS students.
Since it began in 2003, Smile Network International has opened, and operates, 30 mission sites around the world, and has seen over 1,000 surgeries performed. For more information on this organization, go to www.smilenetwork.org.