Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smile Train

I don't know if you'll be able to see the pictures from the email I'm copying and posting here, but if you can't I will get this fixed later. I didn't want to wait in posting this. Smile Train is an organization that is very close to my heart. I see the pictures of these children and I want to help them all. I encourage all of my readers to donate to Smile Train.

Here is an email I received this morning. Please take the time to read it. Oh, I should note that I didn't receive permission from
Smile Train to post this, so please consider the whole email copyrighted by them and not me.

God Bless

"I will never forget a little 7-year-old girl who literally jumped into my arms-and into my heart." -Christopher Meloni

1- HaitiSmileTrain-Chris and Bergaline before

The flight to Haiti from New York is just a little more than 3 hours but the distance between our two countries is VAST. The U.S. is the richest country in the history of the world with an average per capita income of about $40,000 a year. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with an average per capita income of $400 a year. 80% of Haitians live in poverty. 50% cannot read. The healthcare system is in shambles. Average life expectancy is 53 years. Almost one out of every 10 babies dies before their first birthday.

When our plane landed in Port-au-Prince, we went right from the airport to Cité Soleil, a densely populated shanty town where about 300,000 people live in unimaginable circumstances. It is one of the poorest slums in the entire world. In Cité Soleil there are no police, no sewers, no stores and little to no electricity or running water.2- HaitiSmileTrain-Chris and poverty

The stench was overwhelming. As we walked around it felt to me like I was walking on a gigantic landfill, stepping on garbage, human excrement, litter, refuse, rotting food, you name it, while hundreds of wild pigs were snorting and foraging all around us.

Everywhere I looked people were foraging too, looking for food, for plastic or metal cans, for anything they could use, like shoes or clothing.

I thought of Dante's inferno and its Map of Hell-this place would have fit right in.

Many children rubbed their bellies and held out their hands, the international signal that says, "I am hungry will you give me some money."3- HaitiSmileTrain-Chris and Mud Cookies

We came across a market where I saw something I will never forget. A woman selling cookies, made out of mud. Cookies that people actually buy and eat. I was incredulous. I held one and smelled it. Why would anyone eat something like this? I was told that in Haiti, for many people, the hunger pains are so bad they are given the nickname Clorox. Because it feels like there is bleach eating away at the walls of your stomach. So some children eat these mud cookies to fill their stomachs and fend off the hunger pains at least for awhile.

I stood there holding one of these mud cookies shaking my head.

How can it be that just off the coast of the richest country in the world, are 8 million people starving on an island eating cookies made out of mud? What is even more ironic is that the biggest health problem we face in the U.S. these days is obesity. It's true. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is coronary and heart problems related to obesity.

Well, my depression lifted immediately when we got to our Smile Train partner hospital and saw HUNDREDS of children and adults who had come from all over Haiti to be helped.4- HaitiSmileTrain-Waiting Smile Train distributed posters, ran radio and TV ads and spread the word far and wide that every baby, child and adult with a cleft who came to this hospital would be guaranteed free surgery.

I must say, it was a little overwhelming for me to see so many clefts in one place at one time. Some of them were extreme.

I spent a lot of time meeting as many children and their parents as we could. Through our interpreter who spoke Creole, we asked all kinds of questions.

What I came away with was that this Smile Train program was their only chance to ever get cleft surgery for their child. Many of these children had traveled for days, by foot, by boat, by bus, from very far away because this was their one chance, their one shot.

And I will never forget a little 7-year-old girl who literally jumped into my arms-and into my heart. 6- HaitiSmileTrain-Chris and Bergaline before in hospitalBergaline and her mother lived in Cité Soleil. Her mother said never in a thousand years could she ever raise enough money to help her child. We talked a bit and then I lifted Bergaline up and carried her into the O.R. to observe my very first cleft surgery.

And 45 minutes that would change the rest of Bergaline's life.

Her surgeon, Dr. Michael Schaefer, was fantastic. He gave me a play-by-play as he gently, expertly and methodically deconstructed Bergaline's cleft and then artfully put the pieces back together just like a jigsaw puzzle. I was really blown away with how dramatic the transformation was-as well as how quickly it all happened.

In Smile Train direct mail they always say the surgery takes as little as 45 minutes and I must say I have always been a little skeptical about that claim. But sure enough, in under an hour, about 50 minutes, I was lifting a sleeping Bergaline up from that O.R. table and carrying her to the post-op area. (Without all my questions and suture cutting they probably would have been done in 35 minutes!)

7- HaitiSmileTrain- Bergaline After

I almost sprinted to go get Bergaline's mother.

There was not a dry eye in the room as we watched this mom cry tears of joy as she danced and hugged and said thank you again and again and again and again. Wow.

When I got out of my scrubs, I sat down in a hallway to drink some water and take a break. But as I looked out the window at all the children and their parents that were still standing in a long line, waiting to register, or arriving by foot after days of travel, it hit me even harder.8- HaitiSmileTrain-Baby Girl Before

These kids have to be helped. None of these children can be turned away.

Before I went to Haiti, I thought Smile Train was a well-run charity that was doing some good work and helping a lot of kids. But I came back from Haiti with a much more intense point of view and a much greater sense of urgency.

There are millions of poor children in the world who are suffering with unrepaired clefts.

All of their suffering is completely unnecessary.

Every single one of these kids can be helped with this simple, cheap, quick surgery.

5- HaitiSmileTrain-Girl BeforeSmile Train is working feverishly to raise enough money to help as many children as quickly as it can.

If you can help us too, that would be great. If enough of us pitch in, we can actually solve this problem, we9- HaitiSmileTrain-boy before can help all the kids who are out there waiting for their chance to smile.

Donate Now Button

Thanks for reading my report and thanks for helping these kids.

All the best,

Chris Meloni

P.S. If you are wondering if I would go on another Smile Train trip all I have to say is just name the place and the date and I will be there.

P.P.S. I made a pretty neat video about my trip. You can check it out at


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Monday, February 09, 2009

Smile Train

Cheryl opened up the mail tonight and there's a letter to me from the Smile Train. The letter let me know that my donations helped pay for the surgery that put a smile on a little girl's face in Liberia. The letter came complete with a before and after picture.

I know that times are tough and it is really hard for a lot of people to be able to donate money to worthy causes. However; if you do have a little spare cash, the Smile Train would be a great place to put it.

God Bless

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Harry Potter Reference Book

I'm sure we've all heard by now that J.K. Rowlings is suing a fan who has written a lexicon of Harry Potter. She wants the publication of Steven Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon" to be stopped. Mr. Vander Ark has been running a Harry Potter Lexicon website of which Mrs. Rowlings approves. However; she feels that publishing a book is a "wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work."

Now, since I haven't read Mr. Vander Ark's book, nor have I visited his website, I have no way of knowing if he has indeed plagiarized the Harry Potter books. However; I do know that Mrs. Rowlings plans on completing a Harry Potter encyclopedia in a couple of years and if a lexicon is all ready out there, it could hurt the sales of her encyclopedia.

I'm glad I'm not sitting on that jury.

On one hand, Mrs. Rowlings has made a lot of money from Harry Potter and she has created an industry of Harry Potter related books, toys, etc. It's not going to hurt anyone to have someone make a couple of bucks. (As a Harry Potter fan, I do have to say that I wouldn't buy the lexicon, nor will I buy her encyclopedia either.) Since she's planning her own encyclopedia it does sound like she's only worried about her business future.


On the other hand, if all Mr. Vander Ark has done is rearrange her words, then that is stealing.

I'm really, really glad I don't have to sit on that jury.
God Bless

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Death Sentence for Rape?

Under most circumstances I am against the death penalty. I don't think the state taking someone's life really does anyone any good. The costs for keeping a death row inmate are much higher than a non-death row inmate. If an innocent person is convicted and is put to death, you can't go back and fix that.

All of that said, I do support the state of Louisana in executing Patrick Kennedy for the rape of his 8 year old step-daughter.

Here's my reasons.

First, child molestors can never be rehabilitated. NEVER. They don't get out of prison and lead normal lives. They go on to rape and molest children again.

Second, in a sad way, a murder victim's pain is over right away. No one can ever hurt them again. But, children who are harmed by a sexual predator never forget. Also, studies show that children who have been sexually abused are more likely to be abused in the future. Killing their attacker might make the child feel safer, knowing that the boogey man can never hurt them again.

Finally, do we really want these people around? The average molestor has ten victims before he ever gets caught. That's ten children who never get justice.

Let's hope the US Supreme Court upholds Lousiana's decision to put this rapist to death and doesn't decide to put the brakes on a good idea.

God Bless

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

As Promised...

Here is the first picture of my new niece and her mommy. We went to see them both this weekend and she is just the cutest little thing!
God Bless!

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Something Cool...

Yeah, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There's never enough time in the day nor enough money in the bank. We all work too hard for what we earn, but once in a while, something cool happens and you forget all that crap and remember what life is truly about.

So, that's what I want to pass on to you today.

On Sunday, the kids returned from visiting Kim's dad and we took them to lunch. Dustin had to return to work and Kim and Cheryl wanted to do some shopping, so that left da boys and me all alone! Cool Beans, as a co-worker of mine said.

Dustin had put Danny in his carseat and I still had Alex in my arms. Well, Alex is turning his head every which way and then he spots Cheryl on the other side of the parking lot. "GRANDMA!!!" he yells, clear as a bell and loud. He yells it again and she waves at us and I put Alex in his car seat.

I get in the truck and put the key in the ignition and put on my seat belt. From the backseat, I hear Alex say, "Go Grandma, Go. Go Go, Grandma!"

Apparently, Alex is going to be a backseat driver like his grandma and great-grandma before him.

Isn't that cool? He called me Grandma -- even if it was during an order -- he clearly said Grandma!

God Bless

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