Kids with cleft palate shine brightest at Aboitiz-Smile Train World Smile Day Activity

“Ang Diyos, hindi kaming ginawang pangit.” (God made us all beautiful, in his image)

With those six simple words, Cheska Teylan, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, managed to powerfully speak her truth and shatter the ignorance of a bully’s cruel taunts.

Cheska, 12, is very much an average kid. When she is not studying for her lessons at San Joaquin Elementary School in Pasig City, she prefers to color her activity books at home, or roam the streets near her family’s home in Ligid-Tipas, Taguig City. Her mother, Marcela Teylan, occasionally gives her cooking lessons. As a result, Cheska is already capable of cooking fried rice (sinangag).

But growing up, Cheska had to endure bullying and teasing as she underwent several surgeries to address her cleft lip and palate. 

“Tinutukso siya [Cheska]. Hindi nila matanggap na may iba sa kanila na may kapansanan. Hindi nila maiintindihan. Pero hindi naman puwedeng kada-bully, susugod ako sa school. Ang payo ko, ‘Maging matatag ka. Huwag mo nalang silang pansinin.’” (Cheska was often teased by bullies who could not accept and understand physical differences. But I could not rush to her school with every bullying incident. I advised her to be strong and simply ignore her bullies), shares Marcela.

And that’s exactly what Cheska did. “One time, binully siya at nasa harap rin ako at sinabi niya [Cheska], ‘Ang Diyos, hindi kaming ginawang pangit. Maganda kami. Kayo lang ang hindi makatanggap sa amin. Sabi ni Lord, lahat ng ginawa niya maganda. Maganda ako.’” (We are all made beautiful in God’s image. We are all beautiful, and you simply cannot accept that. God made everything beautiful, and I am beautiful.)

Celebrating World Smile Day 

Cheska was just one of 30 children with cleft lips and palates who found a good reason to flash bright smiles while doing various arts and crafts at a recent World Smile Day activity organized by Aboitiz Group social development arm Aboitiz Foundation and the Smile Train Philippines Foundation.

In celebration of World Smile Day last October 4, the Aboitiz and Smile Train Foundations spearheaded a plushie-making activity among the Smile Train beneficiaries with cleft lips and palates. Seven Binibining Pilipinas 2019 winners, led by Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Christiana Ganados, joined in the activities.

World Smile Day, held every first Friday of October, traces its roots to the idea that “all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. The smiley face knows no politics, no geography, and no religion, and that for at least one day each year, neither should we.”

“We in the Aboitiz Foundation are always thankful for the opportunity to make kids smile. We hope that you can also find joy in our activities this afternoon and be reminded that no one is ever too small to make a difference. I think in the simplest sense, this is what we really want out of all of our social development projects – to see a smile when we look at another person, and ultimately, build good and happy communities,” Marasigan said.

KINDer by Aboitiz: an innovative way to help

Smile Train, an international children’s charity whose goal is “to provide every child with a cleft the opportunity for a healthy and productive life,” is an Aboitiz Foundation beneficiary through KINDer by Aboitiz, an Aboitiz-developed crowdfunding website.

“We are grateful for our partnership with the Aboitiz Foundation through its donations campaign, KINDer. More than a website for crowdfunding, KINDer gives us the opportunity to reach more people and inspire them to be part of our advocacy of making more kids smile,” said Kimmy C. Flaviano, Smile Train Area Director-South East Asia.

Ganados, for her part, said: “Doing good is important–it is as important as taking care of ourselves. It is an honor and pleasure to be here with all of you.”

Through a few clicks, KINDer users may browse through various campaigns, learn more about it, and donate to provide support–similar to what Netflix has done for movies and shows in terms of access and choice, and what Kickstarter has done as an effective funding platform in realizing creative projects ーin this case, to support a cause. As in the case of Smile Train, KINDer also welcomes partnerships with foundations in need of a fundraising platform.

From September 2018 to May 2019, KINDer raised nearly P1.6 million through more than 600 individual donors.

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