A Transformational Collaboration in Indonesia

Smile Train

In June 2021, Smile Train Indonesia, the Indonesian Plastic Surgery Association, and the Indonesian National Police made history — again. In June 2019, the Central Police marked their 73rd anniversary by partnering with Smile Train to provide 456 free cleft surgeries over the course of three days, shattering the nation’s previous record for most simultaneous surgeries performed. This year, the three organizations more than doubled their 2019 record, safely performing 750 cleft surgeries in just six days!

Four Indonesian police officers hold a baby before free Smile Train cleft surgery

The event was made possible by months of planning and coordination between Smile Train Indonesia and the heads of each of the country’s 41 police-run hospitals at the command of the Head of Central Medicine and Health of the Indonesian Police(PUSDOKKES). Outreach began months prior, when officers from the smallest local police units reached out to their communities in search of children with clefts. The police are widely trusted in Indonesia, and villages and families alike were eager to point the officers towards children in need. From there, the local officers recorded the patients’ data and coordinated transportation — whether via motorcycle, bus, van, ambulance, or police vehicle — to get the patient and a guardian to their nearest police hospital.

“The Indonesian Central Police made it possible for us to reach many more patients in the villages and remote areas and coordinate their care,” said Deasy Smile Train’s Country Manager and Program Director for Indonesia.

A mother brings her child with a cleft to an Indonesian police officer for free surgery from Smile Train

Once at the hospital, the patients followed strict COVID-19 protocols mandated by both the Indonesian government and Smile Train to ensure each procedure met the highest international standards for safety: Each patient could be accompanied by only one other person, and all were swabbed for COVID-19 before they set foot in the hospital. If the result was negative, they proceeded to other required pre-surgical health screenings. The COVID tests, as well as the personal protective equipment (PPE) donned by each hospital worker, were all furnished by Smile Train as part of the more than $2 million in PPE we have donated to our partners around the world since the start of the pandemic.

A child before and after free Smile Train cleft surgery in Indonesia

Each surgery was broadcast to the Head of Central Medicine and Health of the Indonesian Police to ensure safety and quality.

Screenshot of the Zoom ceremony commemorating the record-setting event

The initiative was recognized by the Indonesian Museum of Records as the country’s largest outreach program since the start of the pandemic in a Zoom ceremony featuring Indonesian police and medical dignitaries, the senior manager of the Indonesian Museum of Records, Smile Train representatives, and members of the media, all while Smile Train-sponsored surgeries were still being performed live in the background.

Deasy and other Smile Train Indonesia staff at the record ceremony

After the event, Deasy said, “Smile Train’s model of empowering local doctors and providing trainings for our partners is the key factor that made this program such a success and such a blessing for patients and their families. We have already heard from parents over social media that it has changed their children’s lives, and we are so grateful for that. This week was a lot of work for our team, but it is more than paid off each time we witnessed a new smile and a happy family.”

Indonesian police officer reaches out to a boy with a cleft before his free Smile Train surgery

“During the past week, we have seen how working together can really change the world. Providing surgeries for 750 individuals in just six days is not an easy task,” said Mamta Carroll, Smile Train’s SVP and Regional Director for Asia. “Even during normal circumstances, doing this safely would be highly impressive. But to do it while enforcing safe and very strict COVID protocols makes it even more impressive…. Thanks to the Indonesian Central Police and the Indonesian Plastic Surgery Association for all that you do…. We are truly grateful for this partnership and look forward to working with all of you for many, many more years to come.”

Smile Train Indonesia staff receiving an official certificate from the Indonesian Museum of Records

Perhaps the most impressive statistic of this event, however, is that these 750 surgeries represent just a tiny fraction of Smile Train’s total impact in Indonesia. Since beginning work there 19 years ago, our more than 135 local partner medical professionals across the country have performed 95,000+ free cleft surgeries for children in need, bringing smiles to even the most remote corners of every island. That’s the advantage of our unique model of empowering local healthcare workers. That’s how we’re changing the world one smile at a time.

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