July 2017
Stories of newly found smiles

  Elie, a story of war and re-birth

Burundi 2005, yearly surgical mission At Bubanza hospital, Progetto Sorriso met Elie, a forty years old man. He had serious injuries: the jaw and the inner part of the mouth were scarred by old wounds, that over and over had healed and opened again, and by widespread infections that must have caused unimaginable pain and fever. In the background, the long ethnic conflict between Tutsi and Hutu. Elie, caught by guerrilla fighters of the opposite ethnic group, had not suffered limbs or facial amputations, like some of his companions. But he was shot by a fire weapon in his mouth. The fighters shot the bullet to cause serious wounds, not to kill. It was impossible to operate on him on the spot, his general situation was too complicated and fragile. It was then that Progetto Sorriso, the Italian Consulate, the region of Lombardia and Sant’Anna hospital in Como (Italy) joined efforts in solidarity. Within three months, Elie was successfully cured in the maxillo-facial surgical division of Sant’Anna hospital: for the first time, doctors saw his smile. After six months, having totally recovered, Elie left Italy. Volunteers visited him one year later, during the following surgical mission: he is now fine, works again and has newly found trust in others and in life.

Roima, story of a girl with the face of a baby lion

Bangladesh 2003, annual surgical mission When she was born, Roima had two small holes instead of a nose, and her face was as flat as that of a baby lion. Her dad drove rickshaws, her mother brought water to the houses of wealthy persons, built with bricks and cement, instead of mud, iron sheets and bamboo. Her family had a safe minimum income: they did not abandon Roima, but all the same they did not know what to do with her, a baby with two small holes instead of a nose, without any chance to find a husband or have a job. So Roima became a street child. One day she met Father Riccardo, a missionary involved with Progetto Sorriso since its very first surgical mission. The surgeons explained the relatives that with one or two procedures the holes in the face could have turned into a nose and they found a glimmer of hope. Roima underwent two procedures, one to solve the functional problems and another to solve the esthetical ones. She was brave, even if in the operating theatre of Santa Maria Sick Assistance hospital in Khulna, just before the anesthetics worked on her, she was shivering with fear. She woke up finally pretty, frail, harmonious. Maybe Roima will anyway never marry, but what she wants now is to continue studying. So as to try emancipate and live a new life. (From the text by Stefania Ragusa, friend of Progetto Sorriso and journalist for Condé Nast)

Nuvola, a story of pain, tolerance, hope…

Bangladesh 2003, yearly surgical mission She was born one night but, unluckily, it was in Bangladesh and … she was a girl. A few hours after her birth someone decided she would not live. The day after, the boys of Tokai House, home of street children in Khulna, found her whilst going to school, close to the water stream, half buried. They found Nuvola (meaning “cloud” in Italian) and called Father Riccardo, who took her out of the ground. An old lady offered to take care of her and clean her. Some boys were sent by Father Riccardo in the mosque, to ask for directions on burial rules. Nuvola was then dressed in traditional clothes, the small bunches of hair on her head were combed and her eyes closed. Now Nuvola rests in the cemetery. That night, after the prayer in the mosque, the Imam talked of Nuvola, a small baby left to die. Then he mentioned Father Riccardo: his sign of respect, his love for a small Muslim girl. He spoke of those infidels that take care of all people, without distinctions. He said: “Tonight, in Heaven, there will be a place for Nuvola and there will be one for all those persons who take care of children… of everyone’s children.” Since then, Progetto Sorriso has also supported a number of social activities, like two kindergartens in needy areas, so that children can be protected and looked after by young adults, who were as well welcomed as children by the Fathers of the order of Saint Xavier. Nuvola did not die, because she lighted new hopes.

Fatuma and Nestor, beyond that door…

Burundi 2006, yearly surgical mission It is impossible not to notice the two small figures literally glued to the glass, beyond the door of the main door to the operating theatre in Bubanza hospital. It is Nestor, four years old, and Fatuma, eight years old. Children in Burundi, like these two, hardly show happiness and openness, because of old habits and rooted fears towards white man. These children, who do not live the spontaneity and joy of their age also because of the alienation due to their being “different”, managed instead to communicate to the volunteers their incredible happiness with simple though extraordinary gestures. It would have been impossible to believe that, hadn’t they seen it with their own eyes the last days of the mission. The two young ones, who had been visited with a lot of trouble by the doctors a couple of days before, spent the whole morning caressing the glass door of the entrance of the operating theatre. This gesture communicates the distance, pride and dignity of these two small children. At the same time, it recalls an extreme gratitude, that the volunteers caught and now treasure in their eyes and hearts. A gratitude that Progetto Sorriso wants to share with those persons who have believed in the commitment of the Association, with trust and generosity.

The story of Helena, small bridge between Italy and Guatemala…

Italy, Guatemala 2009. The life of a Guatemalan girl, suffering a clift palate and lip, waiting for the adoption by Italian parents, intertwined by unexpected circumstances with the surgical activity of Andrea Di Francesco, Progetto Sorriso president and in charge of the maxilla-facial surgical division of Sant’Anna hospital in Como. Helena at the age of two was fighting with her malformation in the orphanage in Guatemala. On the other side of the ocean, her future parents were fighting in Brescia (Italy) with bureaucracy to conclude the adoption procedure. In the meantime, they turned to the division of maxillo-facial surgery of the hospital in Como so as to get ready for the arrival of their daughter. They met Andrea Di Francesco, who reassured them about the good medical outcome of the treatment of this kind of malformation. But fate went further. In 2008 the surgeon was about to begin the surgical mission of Progetto Sorriso precisely in the hospital run by the nuns in charge of Helena’s orphanage. He then had the chance to visit the girl locally, even before she met her new parents, finding a quite large cleft palate and lip. In agreement with the future parents, he waited for the arrival of Helena in Italy, in September 2009, so as to let her face the surgery supported by her parents’ presence and love. Helena now smiles happy with her new family.
Progetto Sorriso nel Mondo- ONLUS  
International association for the treatment and cure of cranio-facial malformations and deformities in developing countries.

Progetto Sorriso nel Mondo (Smile Project in the World) is a non-profit organisation that operates in Bangladesh since 1997, in Africa (Congo and Burundi) since 2005, and in Guatemala since 2008. It deals mainly with the correction of facial disfigurements and the healing of burns.

Each year Smile Project returns to these countries and operates always in the same hospital and always in the same period of year. In this way, the association offers a point of reference and source of hope for hundreds of dispossessed people.
Smile Project realises every year three missions in Bangladesh, one mission in Africa (Congo and Burundi) and one in Guatemala.

The association, now recognised internationally, is exclusively formed of volunteers who offer professional skills and competences, each one according to their individual ability. Over time, Smile Project has decided that it is of fundamental importance to also sustain projects of a social character, like the construction of a house for homeless children and a shelter for the children of women imprisoned in the jail of Jessore, in Bangladesh.

You can sustain the association with donations and contributions (tax-deductible). Bank details:
IBAN IT 40 J 03111 01626 000000012200
addressed to Progetto Sorriso nel Mondo - ONLUS, UBI Banca Ag. 124 C.so di P.ta Ticinese n.1 20123 Milano.

Via Torino 61,
20123 Milano
CF. 97318210156

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