10 October, 2023

By Nita CJ 

An incredible story from such a small act of spreading the words. 

Recently, we had the privilege of welcoming some truly amazing individuals all the way from the Sula Islands in Maluku to Bali. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Smile Foundation Bali, these heroes are here to undergo life-changing surgeries over the next couple of weeks. 

The Smile foundation of Bali
Jeni & The Smile Foundation of Bali

Over 3 Years in the Making 

This journey began over three years ago when, during a SeaTrek trip in the Maluku archipelago in early 2020, our Ombak Putih crew and guests visited Sanana in the Sula Islands. We distributed brochures from Smile Foundation to help those in need of cleft-palate corrections from across Indonesia. It was there that we met Sofy, an unsung hero in this story. Sofy works for the local government and volunteered her time to spread the word about Smile Foundation, riding her motorbike for hours along muddy roads to reach remote villages and gather the necessary paperwork. Against all odds, she rallied people and assured their families that the help they so desperately needed would come at no cost. 

Today, after nearly three years of waiting, their dreams are about to come true. In just a few weeks, they will be wearing their biggest smiles. There are two more children who weren’t in the photos because they were in surgery when I visited, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing their smiles once they recover. 

Challenges Faced by Sofy 

Sofy faced numerous challenges during this journey. Sula Islands, where these remarkable individuals come from, isn’t a place many Indonesians can pinpoint on a map. When we visited the Sula Islands in 2020, we brought Smile Foundation brochures, and we patiently explained to Sofy how it all worked and how to contact the foundation. After our visit, Sofy sprang into action. She rode her motorbike tirelessly from village to village, spreading the word and collecting information. She was joined by a friend, and together they worked tirelessly out of the kindness of their hearts. 

Sofy mentioned that some villagers initially didn’t believe her when she said they could receive cleft-palate surgery for free. It seemed too good to be true. Then the pandemic hit, and everything came to a standstill. Borders closed, movement was restricted, and the children couldn’t travel to Bali for their surgeries. The surgery had to be postponed. Even when they finally got the green light to come to Bali, they faced resistance from local government officials. But Sofy and the children persevered, and here they are in Bali, patiently waiting for their turn to undergo surgery. 

One of the boys, in particular, had stopped attending school out of fear of being bullied due to his appearance. This heartbreaking story brought tears to my eyes. Despite his family’s financial struggles, public school is free, and he could attend without any financial burden. But he refused because he didn’t want to endure bullying due to his physical appearance. I can’t wait to see him regain his confidence after his surgery, allowing him to attend school without fear of bullies. 

Standing Applause to Smile Foundation 

The Smile Foundation‘s work is truly remarkable. They’ve been instrumental in helping people with cleft palates in the remotest parts of Indonesia receive the assistance they need. They’ve changed countless lives! The foundation covers all expenses for patients from the moment they leave their homes until they return, including transportation, accommodation, food, surgery, and even the cost of an accompanying family member. 

So, How Can You Help? 

  • Support the Smile Foundation by spreading the word, just as we did, and witness the incredible impact it can have. 
  • Consider making a donation, no matter how big or small; every contribution counts. 
  • Above all, let’s always spread kindness, regardless of how people may look. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this inspiring story, and for considering how you can make a positive difference.