Mountains for Moms Summits!

2 April 2011 By seth

On March 24, 2011, the entire Dartmouth Mountains for Moms team made the summit of Kilimanjaro. Congrats to the 7 climbers who reached the roof of Africa and helped teach the world about obstetric fistula.

We can’t wait to see how much your fundraising efforts pay off! Keep up the good work!!

The Next Chapter…Mountains for Moms

1 November 2010 By seth

Inspired by the success of the Fistula Free Climb, a third year engineering student from Namibia named Mbumbijazo “Mbumbi” Katjivena decided to start up a climb at his school: Dartmouth College. The new project is called Mountains for Moms – check out the logo the team designed!

Mbumbi is joined by a well organized team of equally motivated individuals who are blogging their experience. Check out the Mountains for Moms blog!

Fistula Free Climb A Success!

5 February 2010 By seth

Fistula Free Climb inspired 11 young people to challenge themselves to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise over $8,000 for OperationOF. This money will help 32 women overcome obstetric fistula (OF). The effort also made the entire campus of Cornell knowledgeable about OF – the worst thing you’ve never heard of. Congratulations to the team!

Check out their blog for some fantastic pictures and stories from their trek to the top of Africa!

The Fistula Free Climb

11 August 2009 By seth

Look what Summit for Smiles has created.

It got me out of the finance world to start OperationOF. Now it has inspired an energetic young Canadian named Ilya Brotzky to start up his own version: The Fistula Free Climb. From an email exchange that started in July, we now have a blog up and Ilya is assembling a team.

A Fistula Free World.

This is our goal.

Through The Fistula Free Climb a group of young leaders will be ascending Mt. Kilimanjaro between January, 10th and 22nd, 2010 with the mission of raising money and awareness for women living with obstetric fistulas.

Have a look at the blog to follow Ilya’s journey.

Moving on…

31 March 2008 By seth

Since the success of Summit for Smiles
was a big inspiration for my life changing actions, I just wanted to let everyone know that I have left my corporate life to start up a new social enterprise called OperationOF.  We are blogging the entire organizational setup, so please check out OperationOF

160 Smiles – Way to go world!!!

8 September 2007 By seth

After surpassing our aggressive goal by 60%, we are finally closing the Kilimanjaro chapter of Summit for Smiles. Everyone’s hard work and the generosity of 257 donors in 29 countries resulted in $39,906 in direct donations to The Smile Train. This impressive sum will dramatically change the lives of 160 children and their families in 71 of the world’s poorest countries. Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this project – job well done!!

Just look at what Brian Mullaney, the Co-Founder and President of the Smile Train had to say:

“Thank you for helping us help SO MANY kids! We at The Smile Train thrive on entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and enthusiasm: Summit for Smiles is a shining example of a tireless and daring effort that not only raised tens of thousands of dollars to provide free surgery for hundreds of children, but also brought together an international coalition of people who care about kids no one else will help. When Seth reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, he carried with him the hopes and dreams of millions of very poor kids suffering with unrepaired clefts who have their own mountains to climb. “

Wow, thanks, Brian! None of this would have been possible without the support of so many passionate people. Like Michele Sinesky, Donor Relations Manager at The Smile Train, who went well beyond the call of duty to support all kinds of crazy ideas and complicated international money transfers. You rock, Michele! Thanks! By the way, that’s Michele pictured to the right with Fan, a little boy from a remote area of Tibet. Through translators, Fan’s father told Michele how an ox-drawn cart pulled him and Fan 12 hours through ice covered mountain roads to Lhasa People’s Hospital. Before the procedure, Fan was shunned by his neighbors and not allowed to attend school. But after his cleft was repaired, the timid boy who rarely left his home became a leader among his peer group. Not only had Fan reconciled with the people who had only weeks before ostracized him, but now they followed him around. Even through this photo you can see a beaming pride and confidence as Fan stands poised with his hands on his hips at a banquet in Beijing. What a difference $250 can make!!!

Summit for Smiles has continued to attract attention and interest from all around the world. In fact, we planned to end the fundraiser much earlier, but people keep donating! Besides adding donors from France, Gabon, Hungary, India, Kuwait, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Venezuela, and even one last week from Slovenia, we have had people run mini drives in several locations around the world. John Harris of ADC Krone Australia ran one such mini-drive. John pulled together nearly $250 from 29 people in ADC’s Berkeley Vale facility. Many thanks to John and the generous people of Australia for all your support!

Thanks also to Peter-Michael Schroetter for helping me spread the word in Berlin. Schroetter set up donation boxes all over the ADC facility in Berlin and helped me get the word out to all the employees. With his help, we raised almost $600 from a mostly anonymous base of donors. With the company match, this means that five kids will get the surgeries that they so desperately need. Thanks so much to Schroetter and to all the generous employees of ADC Krone Berlin!

Closing the Kilimanjaro chapter of Summit for Smiles does not mean that the project is over. In fact, we’ve only just begun! We are currently working on a few exciting ways to expand the effort and will be reporting back soon. But just to give a hint: if you are interested in a service-oriented mountain climb to Europe’s highest peak in summer of 2008, then email me (seth.cochran@gmail.com) because we are putting a team together. Stay tuned for a more details!

Thanks again to all the passionate people who donated time, energy, heart, and money to make Summit for Smiles – Kilimanjaro such a smashing success. Each and every one of you should take pride in knowing that you are making the world a better place. Way to go!

I made it to Uhuru!

27 July 2007 By seth

After a much more grueling hike than anyone expected, seven other members of my expedition and I reached Uhuru Peak at around 6:30 a.m. on June 28, 2007! We powered through exhaustion and altitude sickness to see a magnificent and panoramic, albeit cold and windy, sunrise over the highest point in Africa – 5,895 meters (or 19,340 feet). Reaching the summit was intense and surreal, but what really overwhelmed me was opening the Smile Train flag on top of Africa and thinking about how many families this effort of ours will positively impact.

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The beauty, scale, and diversity of Kilimanjaro completely blew me away and I can honestly say that trekking to Uhuru was one of the most difficult and exhilarating things that I have ever done. I have created a new section of the blogsite called “the report” that includes both pictures and a diary of the journey. The pictures are up, but the diary is still a work in progress, so please bear with me.

I am happy to report that we are very much nearing the fiscal summit as well. We now have 185 donors from 19 different countries who have given enough for 96 surgeries!

Besides adding donors from Spain, Turkey and Poland, we had a very exciting international mini-drive in the Czech Republic. Dusan Burget of ADC Czech Republic, in Brno led a company-wide donation drive collecting almost $300 from 81 people! With this fantastic effort, the Czech Republic has more Summit for Smiles supporters than any other country – by a long shot! Great job, Dusan and team! Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm!

After the Kilimanjaro trek, I had a chance see just how well your donations are being spent. The Smile Train’s Regional Director, Anjuna Kalsi, invited me to visit her in Nakuru, Kenya. Besides being exceptionally hospitable, Anjuna has a sharp acumen and an extraordinary grasp of how to operate in Africa. The Smile Train is fortunate to have such a powerful and intelligent leader implementing their strategy in a region that is riddled with formidable obstacles.

Anjuna arranged for me to visit the Metropolitan Hospital, a Smile Train partner clinic in one of Nairobi’s largest and best known slums: the Nairobi Eastlands. I didn’t know what to expect, but was very impressed to find a clinic as well equipped and professionally managed as the Metropolitan Hospital. In 1994, Dr. K.K. Gakombe and a group of physicians opened this clinic on the edge Buru Buru estate, a middle class enclave in the Eastlands. Dr. Gakombe, an MBA-educated medical doctor and CEO of the Metropolitan Hospital, has transformed a vision to provide quality and affordable healthcare into a 40-bed hospital targeting this historically underserved middle class neighborhood.

summitOn my visit, I had a chance to meet Joseph Chilalo Remuli, a 23-year old man who was at the clinic for his pre op meeting. Joseph works as a security guard at a local restaurant and he learned about The Smile Train program from a restaurant patron who has also been a patient at the Metropolitan Hospital. The Smile Train surgeries are typically done on young children, so having a chance to meet Joseph provided me with unique insight into the impact of cleft palate corrective surgery. He didn’t actually talk very much, but the few comments he made as well as his body language revealed a young man excited at the possibility of change, but a bit nervous about how it would actually occur. On July 10, Dr. Kimani Wanjeri spent 70 minutes repairing Joseph’s cleft. The operation went very well and Joseph is due for his post op meeting in the first week of August.

Spending time with Anjuna and Dr. Gakombe showed me just how exceptionally The Smile Train is using your donations. The real power is in how The Smile Train empowers local people to affect change in their own communities. Throughout the Summit for Smiles effort, people have asked me why I chose The Smile Train and not a different cleft charity. There are other cleft charities that pay for western doctors to fly in, operate as much as possible, and then return home. Think about how much value is wasted by not utilizing and advancing the skills of local people like Dr. Gakombe and his staff. I chose The Smile Train because their local empowerment strategy makes a sustainable impact – an impact that doesn’t fly away at the end of the week.

We are so close to the goal! Every little bit helps, and remember if you are an ADC employee, then the ADC Foundation will match up to $1,000 of your contribution and it doesn’t count against your individual annual matching-gift program limits. No paperwork to fill out, just donate before July 31, 2007 and email me (seth.cochran@gmail.com) the confirmation and we will take care of the rest!

Three quarters to the goal and I am Africa-bound!

13 June 2007 By seth

I leave for Africa tomorrow morning, and I am still certain that despite my extensive planning, I am forgetting something very important. But at least I will leave Berlin knowing that we have 73 donors from 15 countries who have donated enough for 77 surgeries! We are really closing in on raising enough to help 100 children!!!

Our fantastic group of donors is making a marked difference in the lives of children in 71 of the world’s poorest countries. It’s amazing to see just how far $250 can go to improve a child’s life. Take for example, Angelica Joy (“AJ”) Fabroa, a two year old girl living in the Philippines and pictured below.


AJ’s parents were devastated when they found out that she had a cleft palate. They knew that this birth defect was totally correctable, but were unsure how they would pay for the relatively expensive $250 procedure. In search of a cure for their daughter, and also to find a solution to the feeding problems the cleft was causing, AJ’s parents put their young infant in the care of local mission that treated children with clefts.

AJ had been underweight since birth and the cleft-induced feeding problems she experienced had exacerbated this issue. The local mission evaluated AJ and would not operate due to her limited physical stature. When the Fabroa family returned a second time, AJ was still too small for the operation. This time, the mission advised AJ’s parents that her low body weight warranted immediate hospitalization.

AJ’s parents could never afford to pay for the cost of a hospital stay and, though terribly distraught, they began searching for another alternative. But a solution found them. A social worker told the family about The Smile Train and within weeks AJ had both the nourishment and the surgery she so desperately needed! Now AJ is eating normally and learning how to speak! All because of a donation some concerned citizen a world away made to The Smile Train!

During the last week, Ole Strum, the founder of a website called Cleftworld, an online resource and archive for cleft-related questions, found the Summit for Smiles blogsite. Ole grew up in Africa and is currently living with his family in Australia. Cleftworld is a great site and I encourage you to check it out, but what is really interesting is how Ole got started with this endeavor.

buzzOle has a 16 month old son named Per who was born with a cleft and lip palate. Before Per was born, Ole had set up a blog to chronicle the pregnancy and his son’s life, but Per’s cleft focused the blog on linking families who are experiencing similar circumstances. Ole told me that before Per got the corrective surgery, he and his wife were very aware of other people’s reactions. They were not overly bothered, but definitely felt weird by the looks they were getting when people saw Per’s face. So the couple decided to come up with a t-shirt design (logo to the right) which they printed up. By making a feature of Per’s cleft, the family invited people to become comfortable with his cleft. Ole said, “People reacted much better – it’s like they instantly knew that we were okay with it and that they could ask questions rather than trying to gloss over it.”

Remember, if you are an ADC employee, then the ADC Foundation will match up to $1,000 of your contribution and it doesn’t count against your individual annual matching-gift program limits. No paperwork to fill out, just donate and email me (seth.cochran@gmail.com) and we will take care of the rest!

Two thirds down, one to go!

6 June 2007 By seth

Well, there are only days left before I head down to Africa and between procuring visas, getting all my immunizations, and finding US Dollars printed after 2003, I am scrambling to make sure that all my bases are covered. But I am happy to report that we now have 59 donors from 14 countries who have donated enough for 67 surgeries!

100% of all this global generosity is making a substantial difference to poor children around the world. This money has an immediate and tangible impact and when you hear the stories of what these kids and their families go through, $250 seems like a small price to pay to make such an enormous difference. After 12 grueling years, Erick Soita, who is pictured below, benefited from a simple operation made possible by The Smile Train.

Erick is from Kimili, a small village in Kenya that had never seen or heard of a child with a cleft palate before he was born. Besides being overcome by sorrow, Erick’s parents were also shunned by their tribe, who saw Erick as a bad omen.

Life provided Erick with more than his share of challenges. He found no reprieve from exclusion and ostracism. Children at school taunted him when the simple task of eating and drinking would cause food and drink to stream out of Erick’s nose. Even after school, Erick’s tribe forced him into solitude.

When Erick finally received the corrective surgery, his father was overjoyed that Erick would have the same opportunities as other children, remarking, “You cannot be happy when your child is not happy. I am so thankful to those people who have helped my family. They are welcome to come to my home anytime.”

Kenya has a special place in this installment of the blog. Besides being the home of a smiling Erick Soita and his family, Kenya is also the country I am flying into and out of for my trip up Kilimanjaro. I will have a few days free while I wait for my flight back to Berlin and I asked The Smile Train if I could possibly visit a local clinic to see first hand how your donations are materializing to improve lives. Well, today I was invited to visit a Smile Train clinic in Nairobi! Of course, I am thrilled to go and cannot wait to report back to all of you on how your hard earned money is being put to work!

Remember, if you are an ADC employee, then the ADC Foundation will match up to $1,000 of your contribution and it doesn’t count against your individual annual matching-gift program limits. No paperwork to fill out, just donate and email me (seth.cochran@gmail.com) and we will take care of the rest!

Exploding past the 50% mark!

25 May 2007 By seth

We have burst through the halfway point with two huge donations from the United States! But this has hardly been an American affair. These last couple weeks were extremely international.

The blogsite is now in German, courtesy of Jacqueline Allert of Berlin, Germany. I started to do the translation myself and then realized that my Kinderdeutsch would need a bit of bolstering. Jacqueline offered to help and has donated lots of time and energy making this site international. Many thanks to Jacqueline!

We have also added donors from Austria, Canada, Ghana, Greece, and Romania! Our 44 donors from 11 countries have already given enough for 57 operations – that’s almost $15,000 in direct donations!!! Many thanks to those who have given! 100% of your donations allow the Smile Train to help kids like Avula Naga Raju, who is pictured below. Just have a look at what kind of impact $250 of your money can have.

Both of Avula’s parents work as laborers earning about 60 rupees (or just over $1.50) a day. Not only does the family have no land for farming, they don’t even have a house. They live in temporary tenements which shift from farm to farm wherever they can find work and in government welfare hostel for the low castes when there is no work.

The doctor who performed Avula’s surgery made the following comment: “If you cover the lower half of the face in the both pre operative and post operative photos, and keep them beside each other, (so as to not show either the cleft or the repair) you will notice a new sense of self-confidence in him. I am more satisfied at this change, than the repair itself”

This new sense of self confidence is evident in every picture that I have seen of a child who has received this marvelous surgery. Not only does your donation correct a physical deformity, it instills a sense of self worth in a child who might otherwise have little or none. To make such an impact for only $250 is incredible!

Remember, if you are an ADC employee, then the ADC Foundation will match up to $1,000 of your contribution and it doesn’t count against your individual annual matching-gift program limits. No paperwork to fill out, just donate and email me (seth.cochran@gmail.com) and we will take care of the rest!

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