Brian Mullaney with cleft lip victims at Devkamal Hospital in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, April 1: Pinki Sonkar is not the only one wearing that winning smile.
Away from the Oscar spotlight, hundreds of underprivileged children in Jharkhand have found a reason to smile after free surgery to repair their cleft lips and palates.
Like the Uttar Pradesh-based protagonist of Megan Mylan’s Academy award-winning documentary Smile Pinki, Class VIII student Priyanka Kumari feels glad to think that her classmates won’t taunt her any more. “I can smile and talk now,” the resident of Balumath, a Naxalite-hit block of Latehar, beams.
Smile Train, a US-based NGO that had sponsored Pinki’s surgery, has stepped in to change Priyanka’s life — and that of 374 other children who lined up at Devkamal Hospital here today to catch a glimpse of the man behind the mission, Brian Mullaney.
The co-founder of Smile Train, Mullaney has been involved with various children’s charities for more than 20 years. He has travelled hundreds and thousands of miles to visit developing and underdeveloped countries like India, Afghanistan, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Haiti and Somalia, and helped scores of children smile.
Accompanied by Satish Karla, Smile Train in-charge, South Asia, and Mamta Carol, the US-based NGO’s East India in-charge, Mullaney visited children in Bero who were operated on by doctors of Devkamal Hospital, a partner in the noble mission.
“There are 200,000 cleft cases among children in India. In Jharkhand, some 12,000 have cleft lips. Over the next five years, we will bring smile on all their faces,” Mullaney promised. He was in the state on a day’s trip.
Priyanka had been operated on at Devkamal Hospital a month ago. So had 374 other children from several districts, including Ranchi, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Dumka, Gumla and Latehar. “I have brought my daughter here with great expectations. I am waiting for doctors to check her,” said Sabita Khatun, mother of three-year-old Nazia, who has come all the way from Itki on Ranchi-Gumla road.
“The challenges in Jharkhand are big,” said Dr Anant Sinha, the in-charge of Smile Train in Jharkhand.
“We have written to corporate houses requesting them to help, but haven’t received any positive response. They can at least help these children come to our hospital by sponsoring their travel expenses,” he added.
Perhaps industrialists of this state need to take a tip or two from Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata who, at a recent function in Mumbai, donated six Nanos — one for Jharkhand — for the Smile Train mission.