Pune hosts Hundreds of #CleftsSeConfidenceTak stories in support of the Cleft Community at Smile Train India’s Cleft Con India 2023


PUNE: Smile Train, the world’s leading cleft-focused NGO, hosted India’s largest gathering of cleft-affected individuals, Cleft Con India 2023 in Pune at Hotel Hyatt Regency at Viman Nagar recently. Cleft Con India is an open platform for individuals with cleft and their families to discuss obstacles faced and share triumphs. This year, the focus was to bring to the fore journeys from cleft to confidence under the theme ‘Cleft Se Confidence Tak’ in a safe and unbiased environment.

Speakers took center stage to offer powerful and inspiring personal stories about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to become confident individuals and lead full lives. The event included sessions with a focus on critical conversations on emotional, medical, and logistical issues concerning clefts.

Actor Sarika Singh, Keynote Speaker for the event, shared her cleft journey publicly for the first time. The event brought together known faces such as Tapan Singhel, CEO & Managing Director, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, Mrs. Shefali Bajaj, Chairperson, CSR Steering Committee, Bajaj Finserv Ltd, Instagram stars Dimple Arora and Tania Mittal, international and national medical experts, along with other cleft warriors, and cleft parents from diverse backgrounds. The event was attended by 200+ people in person and hundreds watched the online live stream of the event.

At the event, Dr Shrirang Pandit, Chief of Plastic Surgery, at Poona Hospital said, “Cleft Con India marks itself as an exemplary platform for the cleft community, by the cleft community. Smile Train has so far completed 53000 successful cleft surgeries in Maharashtra with 11 partner hospitals. The several #CleftSeConfidenceTak stories that you hear today are a result of the wonderful support that the organization has extended toward cleft beneficiaries and their families in the country. Poona Hospital has managed to train to perfection surgeons and doctors to ensure comprehensive care for the cleft born with Smile Train India’s support.

Speaking at the event, Mamta Carroll, Smile Train’s Senior Vice President and Regional Director for Asia said, “With the theme of #CleftSeConfidenceTak, the second edition of Cleft Con India shares journeys of individuals with clefts to reduce stigma and build the narrative for timely, comprehensive cleft intervention. By facilitating Cleft Con India, Smile Train aims to foster a sense of community for cleft-affected individuals and their families, bring forth powerful personal journeys, and create empathy for those born with a facial difference.

In India, more than 35,000 children are born with a cleft condition annually. Many of them are bullied, ostracized, or isolated. If left untreated, clefts can cause numerous health issues including difficulty with eating, hearing, and speaking. Smile Train India recently marked their 700,000th cleft surgery milestone, reaching children in need through a network of 150+ partner hospitals across the country. The NGO continues to expand its network of medical partners, donors, and supporters via its sustainable model of cleft care.


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