Thecommich is here to serve – that’s why she joined the Rotary Club of SF in 2009. One of the organizations that the Rotary supports is the Alliance for Smiles – a non-profit that funds medical missions to the third world in order to fix cleft lips and palates among children and adults.
A cleft lip may not seem to be the most dire of conditions to cure – what with AIDS and other terrible diseases still running rampant – but this condition can literally mean life or death for a person born in the wrong circumstances. Babies with cleft lips/palate are frequently left to die in the Third World, because the resources used to feed and care for the infants can’t be recouped as the child grows. Children with cleft lips and palates can accidentally inhale their food, leading to more complications; they can’t marry or work a regular job; they are usually taunted or forced to stay home in shame.
Enter the good people at Alliance for Smiles, which raises money each year to give a new – smiling – future to hundreds of kids and adults.
Anita Stangl, the organization’s director, asked thecommich to help create a brief PSA that could air during the holiday season and encourage people to donate. As with most non-profits, budget was scarce – so scheduling a shoot was not a realistic option. However, the story needed to be told visually to get people to appreciate the huge difference a cleft lip and palate surgery can make.
In the end, we opted to use a simple slide show format using the before and after photos that doctors usually took pre- and post-operation. We also concentrated on images of the youngest patients of the program (the man pictured here, Bernie, actually counts as one of the oldest… but his transformation is so wonderful I had to share it. You can read more about his story here.
After writing and recording the script (using the trusty – and free – voice memo app on my iPhone), we had a soundtrack to edit with. We also dubbed the voice over in Cantonese and Mandarin as the majority of cleft lip and palate sufferers are Asian. The result is simple, yet effective:
A smile is a great thank-you for any gift, but being able to give other people a smile is a wonderful way to start the new year.