Changing lives with empathy, compassion and skill

Chris Bateman


A confluence of kind-hearted people (in the right places), inspired to expand on a simple request from an influential old man, has so far enabled more than 500 underprivileged infants with serious facial deformities to smile properly for the first time.
Not only have maxillo-facial surgeons across the country benefited from learning advanced surgical techniques, but top sporting folk and other celebrities have also seen the near-miraculous transformation of these little children’s faces -- and therefore their futures.
The latest 27 tiny beneficiaries were last November given restorative surgery for a wide variety of facial abnormalities at Tygerberg Hospital near Cape Town during Smile Week, now a 6-year-old phenomenon in academic hospitals country-wide.
The Smile Foundation was born of an idea that flowed from a simple request by former President Nelson Mandela to Gauteng businessman and philanthropist Marc Lubner.
Madiba asked Lubner if he could facilitate surgery for an impoverished child he’d met who had a rare facial paralysis that prevented him from smiling.
Lubner secured the services of top Canadian surgeons who worked with their local counterparts and realised ‘the synergistic power that a co-ordinated set of surgical programmes could have on a large number of children who could otherwise not afford this’.
Next came health care philanthropist, pharmacist, and former Miss South Africa (1997), Kerishnee Naiker -- who happens to sit on the board of the Vodacom Foundation (the social responsibility arm of the telecommunications giant) and the Smile Foundation.
During a 2007 Vodacom Foundation board meeting she strongly punted the Smile Foundation’s work, telling members it was ‘the kind of thing that needs showing not telling’.

Author's affiliations

Chris Bateman, HMPG

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plastic surgery, Smile Week, philanthropist

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(1):14-16.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-11-26
Date published: 2010-01-13

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