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Alliance for Smiles (AfS) is a San Francisco based nonprofit organization founded in October of 2004. The goal of Alliance for Smiles is creating smiles and ultimately changing lives by providing free reconstructive cleft lip and palate surgeries for underserved children worldwide.
Alliance for Smiles' mission has a two tiered program that first, sends out surgical teams to the underserved areas of the world, and secondly, works to establish permanent Treatment Centers in some of these locations where the protocol of cleft treatment practiced in the United States can be taught and replicated.
AfS decided to choose China as the first country to be approached with this dual concept. Several factors contributed to this choice. One of the most important reasons for this focus is that the need for cleft lip and cleft palate treatment in China is overwhelming. More than one in 350 children are born annually with a cleft anomaly! Another major factor is that there is an intense interest by the Chinese to learn about current cleft lip and palate surgery and establish modern Treatment Centers where continual treatment and follow-up can be performed.
Alliance for Smiles' first Treatment Center was dedicated in Jiujiang, China in April of 2007 and is functioning with over 150 children enrolled! We have developed a comprehensive team approach to operate at the Treatment Center just as our individual missions do. The services we provide are not only that of the surgeons but also speech pathologists, dentists, orthodontists and psychologists.
The results of this dual vision is that today, Alliance for Smiles has completed 15 medical missions to China with over 1400 children receiving corrective surgery! During 2008, five medical missions were successfully executed and during 2009, six will take place. From just two missions in 2005, Alliance for Smiles has grown quickly!
Each medical team is comprised of over 35 medical and non-medical volunteers. Typically there are four plastic surgeons, five anesthesiologists, a head nurse, four operating room nurses, two pediatricians, a dentist, a dental hygienist, and approximately 12 non medical volunteers including Mission Director, Medical Photographers, Medical Records Transcribers, Quartermaster, Sterilizer, and Translators.
The future of AfS holds great potential. Other countries including The Philippines, Bangladesh and locations in Africa will be future sites. The Treatment Centers concept is expanding in China with several hospitals as potential centers. This original concept of providing two types of services, one immediate and the other long term, remains as the basic philosophical principle of AfS. With continued support from generous individuals, foundations, businesses, and groups such as Rotary, AfS looks forward to expanding and realizing its dream of establishing comprehensive treatment for cleft children in developing countries.