A Cathedral of Smiles…

The cleft lip and palate industry provides cleft lip and palate anomaly surgical care as well as follow-up care free of charge, financial assistance for expenses such as families traveling to treatment centers, comprehensive information to educate the public to raise awareness and advocate for such causes, research to learn about the causes of such anomalies, and scholarships for those affected by such defects.

Alliance for Smiles’s major competitors include Operation Smile, Smile Train, ReSurge International, and Rotaplast. These organizations also provide cleft lip and palate treatment. In particular, Operation Smile and Smile Train are bigger and more well-known than Alliance for Smiles. These organizations have some major celebrities as ambassadors to raise awareness of cleft problems as well as more funding, expenses, and staff. In California, Alliance for Smiles competes with local organizations such as ReSurge and Rotaplast to reach more supporters.

One unique challenge in this industry includes expanding treatment centers by developing more hospitals in different parts of the world to fix more broken smiles. Performing only surgical procedures will not solve all of the problem. Ongoing treatment such as in speech therapy is needed for patients to fully recover. However, such a development needs support from individuals, foundations, and groups and sometimes there is a funding constraint. Additionally, more teams of medical and non-medical volunteers may need to be recruited for perhaps longer missions in these countries. Another unique challenge for this industry is that because the exact cause of cleft lips and palates is unknown (there might be a genetic or an environmental component such as exposure to chemicals in the mother during pregnancy), research is ongoing to try to facilitate treating the anomalies. A unique opportunity for this industry is that these non-profit organizations can nurture long-term relationships with the countries visited, not only understanding on a deeper level each country’s culture, but also fostering world peace.

For a professional, this industry is worthwhile to partake in because cleft lip and palate problems are the most common birth defects affecting the face. Children with these anomalies are unfortunately bullied for their appearances or worse, abandoned at birth. It is so rare to have the opportunity to actually change someone’s life. By providing the surgical care and follow-up care such as orthodontic treatment because the condition can cause dental problems, these children can have a fresh start in life. With diligence and compassion, professionals can bring happiness and hope to children and families.


On a fun note, sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find the hidden gem of the city. Since I am living in the Nob Hill neighborhood, this past weekend I explored the nearby Grace Cathedral, which is San Francisco’s largest gothic cathedral. It is famous for a reason. The intricate stained-glass windows, beautiful paintings, and meditative labyrinths are absolutely stunning. Fortunately, I also had the chance to take a tour of the cathedral to visit its collection of vestments and an almost breathless walk up its 94 stairs to see the San Francisco skyline.

I think I’m converted now.


Below is a picture of a relaxing park that is right across the street from the cathedral.


And I stopped to smell the roses!