iconimg Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Zehra Kazmi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 18, 2013
Pinki Sorcar, the little girl who emerged as the star of the 2008 Oscar winning documentary Smile Pinki, has just found another reason to grin. The 11-year old, who was born with a cleft lip corrected through surgery, will get a chance to toss the coin at the Gentlemen’s Singles final match at the prestigious Wimbledon tournament on July 7.

Smile Train, the organisation which provides free cleft surgery to thousands of poor children in developing countries, is the official charity partner for the Wimbledon tournament this year. The organisation nominated Pinki to perform the coin toss.

“As an organisation dependent on donations, any visibility helps. This is a good platform for us to tell the world who we are, what we do, how we use donors’ funds,” said Satish Kalra, chief programs officer, Smile Train.

Every year more than 170,000 children are born with cleft lip or palate. Most cannot speak or eat properly and worse, are often humiliated and isolated, especially in poverty-stricken, illiterate societies which see clefts as “curses”.

Though one surgery costs $250 or roughly Rs. 14,000, even that is out of reach for patients in developing countries.

The Megan Mylan-directed Smile Pinki, shot in Varanasi and the villages of Uttar Pradesh, not only focused global attention on the problem of clefts, but showed how treatment can completely cure a child. 

The documentary followed the then six-year-old Pinki’s transformation after plastic surgeon Dr Subodh Kumar Singh operated upon her.

Singh welcomes Pinki’s participation in Wimbledon, calling it a “wonderful opportunity” to raise awareness about the cause of cleft.

“After the Oscar win, we got a lot of patients referred by people who had heard about the documentary. This can further awareness about how well the treatment works and can encourage people to help such children,” he said.