The Smile Foundation is a not-for-profit started in 2000 by Nelson Mandela and Marc Lubner under the belief that the future of our nation is in the hands of our children. Since its inception, The Smile Foundation has helped over 4000 children with facial abnormalities and burns, receive corrective plastic and reconstructive surgery.
For over 15 years Sasfin has partnered with The Smile Foundation to help make a meaningful impact on the lives of these children through annual sponsorships and being the headline sponsor of the annual Smile Foundation Spin-a-thon.
The annual Smile Spin-a-thon raises money for reconstructive surgery on children with cleft, lip, palate and other facial abnormalities. Due to Covid-19 there is a huge backlog of about 800 children and since March 1, 2022 they have done 436 surgeries on children.
However, it is not just the surgeries that the Smile Foundation offers, it is support and care for the entire family. These children come from low-income homes where they’re unable to access the assistance they need. Working with maternity units The Smile Foundation identifies children born with cleft palates and immediately steps in to provide help and support to the child and the entire family. “It doesn’t only affect the children, it affects the entire family”, says Kim Robertson. They provide special cleft bottles for the babies so they can be fed and give the mom a bag filled with everything she needs to meet her and her baby’s basic needs. In addition, they provide psychological help to the family.
Kim Robertson Smith, CEO of The Smile Foundation shares that they aim to get the first surgery done at 3 months and the second at 6-9 months. The key she says is to do it before the child reaches school age and can be affected by teasing and bullying.
Her goal is “to make sure that every child can become a healthy adult and to live the life they are supposed to live free of any stigma and bullying.” She goes to every Smile Week, which happens twice a month and sees them doing 30-40 surgeries. Her phone is filled with pictures of the children they’ve helped and she says, “holding a child in your arms who now has the opportunity to live a normal life makes all the difference”.
“To make sure that every child can become a healthy adult and to live the life they are supposed to live free of any stigma and bullying.”
Batya Stein, a psychology student, had a cleft palate as a baby and now volunteers with The Smile Foundation. It was a natural choice as she’s always had a connection to the work they do and has known since she was young that she wanted to help people. She was at the Spin-a-thon and shared that she visits Baragwanath Hospital once a week with The Smile Foundation’s psychologist and speaks to the parents. She says it’s hard for them to see past their current situation and she’s able to comfort them and let them know it’ll be ok, that she was once in the position their child is and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This year’s Spin-a-thon, held at Fourways Mall saw 256 riders come out to spin in one of 8 hourly slots. Amongst the riders was a group of Sasfin riders who rode the entire day - Puso Mtimkulu, Evonia Olifant, Paul Muhlamaenza and George Ratema. Evonia Olifant has been doing them since 2016 and says she’s always chosen to ride the whole day instead of just an hour. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference, to give back to the community, my company and put a smile on a child’s face, you don’t get a lot of opportunities like this”.
“It’s an opportunity to make a difference, to give back to the community, my company and put a smile on a child’s face, you don’t get a lot of opportunities like this”.
Puso Mtimkulu has been doing Spin-a-thon for 3 years and is a self-confessed fitness junkie who regularly does CrossFit, running and spinning. Spinning for the full day he says is just another way he gets to push himself and get in his fitness fix.
Whatever the individual reason for spinning, each rider came out, had fun, pushed themselves and made a tangible difference in the lives of the children of The Smile Foundation.