Smile Network International Founder Kim Valentini

Who she is: Kim founded Smile Network International in May 2003 after 25 years in public relations and marketing.

What she does: Her travels with Smile Network have taken her to the far corners of the earth and off the beaten path. She has met with dignitaries of foreign countries, traveled to remote, poverty-stricken villages, and met hundreds of families and children along the way whose lives have been changed as a result of the free reconstructive surgeries.

Why she does it: “Every year thousands of children are born in developing countries with facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates and suffer the humiliation and embarrassment of disfigurement,” explains Kim. “The mission of Smile Network International is straightforward: to reconstruct lives one bright, smiling face at a time.”

SMILE NETWORK INTERNATIONAL RECONSTRUCTS LIVES

By Hope Katz Gibbs

Smile Network International is a global nonprofit humanitarian organization founded by Kim Valenti, which provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries and related health-care services to impoverished children and young adults in developing countries.

“Every year thousands of children are born in developing countries with facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates and suffer the humiliation and embarrassment of disfigurement,” explains Kim. “Oftentimes these children have difficulty eating, drinking, and speaking. As a result, many are malnourished and underdeveloped and lack energy, strength, and confidence.”

The worst part, she says, is that these children suffer rejection and social injustices and frequently are hidden away from the mainstream of everyday life. But through local efforts, Smile Network International develops global partnerships that enable volunteers to build trust in foreign countries.

“These relationships provide Smile Network the opportunity to conduct surgical missions and to impart dignity and a better quality of life to individuals whose medical needs may otherwise go untreated,” Kim adds, noting that all Smile Network surgeries are provided free of charge. “The mission of Smile Network International is straightforward: to reconstruct lives one bright, smiling face at a time.”


Our summer mission to Mbale, Uganda

We recently completed our first surgical mission in Uganda. With almost 2,000 children helped by Smile Network in the past few years we have been fortunate never to have lost a child. The statistics say that at some point, it will happen. More than likely, it will be an underlying, undetected health condition that causes a complication during surgery.

Sadly, though, two children did die en route to the mission site. Handicapped by their clefts and their inability to receive proper nutrition, these children died of malnourishment. Although not in our care, it left a hole in my heart to know the parents traveling to the mission site lost their children when they were so close to receiving the miracle they had been waiting for.

Recently a fellow Smile Network board member said to me about the surgeries, “It all matters. Even if it only matters to one small child in the middle of Africa, it all matters.”

Click here to find a message from Alita Watson, the director of site development for the Smile Network, who has been at the mission site in Uganda. Her letter reinforced that it does indeed all matter.


The Women