Learning to Smile

This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of WGM.

It’s not every day you can honestly say you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, but thanks to WGM, Ho Tram Resort Casino and the Asian Poker Tour (APT) there are a few more kids smiling widely today.

In May this year, the inaugural APT Vietnam at Ho Tram kicked off with a special Charity Event which attracted a field of 47 players and raised US$2,350 for local charity Operation Smile Vietnam. The APT rounded that figure up to US$3,000 with WGM matching it dollar for dollar for a total donation of US$6,000.

Operation Smile Vietnam provides free surgical treatment for disfigured Vietnamese children and young adults with facial deformities – most commonly cleft lips and cleft palates. Their incredible work transforms lives all across the country.

Around one in 700 kids worldwide is born with a cleft lip or palate and although not a life threatening condition, it can nevertheless lead to various health and emotional problems. Children with cleft deformities commonly suffer from ear infections, malnutrition, respiratory ailments, dental problems and difficulties with speech development.

They are also regularly teased at school which can leave them ostracized – many of them quitting school as a result and therefore failing to complete their education or develop adequate social skills.

Both cleft lips and cleft palates can be repaired with surgery but many sufferers in Vietnam don’t have the financial means to do so, which is where Operation Smile comes in.

Between 13 and 19 June 2015, Operation Smile Vietnam held its 15th medical mission in Ho Chi Minh City using the funds donated by WGM and APT Vietnam plus further donations from the Bank of China, ILA, CGV Cinemas and Diplomatic Golf Club & Consular Club.

A total of 70 patients were examined on the screening day with 55 receiving their life-changing corrective surgeries over the ensuing days. The lucky patients had their food, transportation and accommodation costs covered for the duration of their stay as well as all medical costs from the surgery itself to hospital charges and medication.

The week proved to be an incredibly successful one with Operation Smile’s dedicated team working tirelessly throughout. It was calculated that the charity’s medical professionals contributed a total of 2,176 hours combined while non-medical volunteers added another 384!

Thanks to their efforts there are 55 Vietnamese children who can now look forward to a full and normal life – a prospect they could have only dreamed of without the help of Operation Smile Vietnam.

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