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06 June 2016


“A purpose beyond ego”. Four simple words, yet they’ve driven Braam Malherbe to run millions of steps from the deserts of Asia to the icy plains of Antarctica. Richard Holmes interviews Braam to Sawubona magazine.

Click to read the full article 

05 April 2016

“It starts with healing that ONE CHILD”

“It starts with healing that ONE CHILD” – a message from Nicholas Serra

Nineteen years ago, a freak motor vehicle accident resulted in me spending 40 days in a deep coma and changed the course of my life forever. You see, it was then that I was just that ONE CHILD. I was fortunate to have had a tremendous support system and I gained strength from the community who took time out of their busy lives to reach out and let me know that they were thinking of me and that they were praying for me every step of my journey. Through it all, I learnt that strength; true strength isn’t when you face down life’s challenges on your own. It’s when you take them on by accepting the help, faith and love of others and knowing you are lucky to have them.

My journey thus far has been a tremendous one and with the help of the Saints family I have been fortunate enough to experience many adventures. Three years ago I set sail on the Lord Nelson from Durban to Kochi in India. This leg of my journey saw me spend 47 days at sea as a crew member on board the Lord Nelson, one of two tall ships which have been specifically designed and built to enable people with a range of different physical abilities to sail side-by-side. My dream of sailing the seven seas was achieved and I never forgot that here at Saints my ship once anchor’d and here its course was set.

In the bible it says: “Much is required from the person to whom much is given: much more is required from the person to whom much more is given”. And so, with this thought in mind and in gratitude for all that I have, I decided to try and make a difference to our world “One Smile at a time”. Early in January 2015, together with my family, we set off to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise much needed funds and awareness for Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity providing free medical examinations and surgeries to patients around the world suffering from cleft lips and/or cleft palates. Clefts are the fourth most common birth defect in the world and are found in every geographical area and every ethnic group. A cleft lip and a cleft palate can be fixed in as little as 45 minutes, and the surgery can change the lives of the patients, their families and their communities forever.

 I believe that all children deserve to live their lives with dignity. For those suffering from facial deformities, dignity begins with a smile. Each year, thousands of children are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. They are often hidden away, shunned by their family, and isolated from their community.  

Climbing Kilimanjaro was the toughest, most physically challenging time of my life with the left hand side of my body hauling and willing my partially paralysed right hand side of my body as far up Mt Kilimanjaro as I could go. As I hobbled the last few metres the pain became too overwhelming but left me reflecting on what was the greatest journey of my life. Finally, at 5300m, with the summit in sight and tears in my eyes, I had to accept that I had reached the limits of my physical capability. With a heavy heart I turned back and over my shoulder, watched as the rest of my family continued on. Below, is a photograph of me (in blue) just before setting off back down Mt Kilimanjaro.

Here is my brother Jason (Matric Class of 2008) and my sister Gabriella (Matric Class of 2014) proudly displaying the St Stithians’ flag.

For as little as R 5 500, a corrective operation can change an individual’s life, those of their families and their communities forever. These people are hoping that they will be selected as the next candidate for a life changing reconstructive operation. I personally made that dream a reality for 1 human being somewhere in Africa.

My journey has been a happy one and over the years I have spoken to tens of thousands of school children, parents, teachers and professionals and shared my experience on a personal level. Last month I gave a motivational talk at a corporate event who subsequently made a donation to Operation Smile, once again showing that we can make a difference ONE CHILD AT A TIME. 

Operation Smile mobilizes a world of generous hearts to heal children's smiles and transform lives across the globe. This donation will do that for another two human beings somewhere in the world.

Kind regards.

Nicholas Serra


Read full article here

07 March 2016

Klein Alexzander glimlag nou van oor tot oor

Deur op Maart 7, 2016

Die meeste ma’s sien uit na die geboorte van hul kleinding. Die opwinding wat wag en die herinneringe wat saam jou kind gemaak gaan word, lê soos ’n pan goud voor jou, maar dit het vir Ilza Lange in ’n nagmerrie ontaard toe haar 10 maande oue baba seuntjie, Alexzander, met ’n gesplete lip en verhemelte gebore is.

Klein Alexzander maak reg vir sy operasie. Foto: Verskaf

Klein Alexzander maak reg vir sy operasie. Foto: Verskaf

“Toe ek Alexzander vir die eerste keer sien, het ek onmiddellik verlief geraak op hom, maar ek was ook bang vir die soort lewe wat hy sou hê,” sê dié ma van Johannesburg.

“Mense kan wreed wees en ek het geweet ek kan hom nou beskerm, maar dit sou nie altyd die geval wees nie.”

Alexzander en sy ma, Ilza Lange voor sy operasie. Foto: Verskaf

Alexzander en sy ma, Ilza Lange voor sy operasie. Foto: Verskaf

Volgens Operation Smile (OS) is die oorsaak van die toestand nog onbekend, maar tot dusver kan dit toegeskryf word aan omgewings- en genetiese faktore.

Lees ook: ‘Borsmelkskenking kan soveel babas se lewens red,’ sê Sue Duminy

“Die eerste paar dae ná sy geboorte was baie moeilik vir ons,” sê sy.

“Toe ek hom vaste kos begin voer, het dit in sy verhemelte vasgesit en dan het hy gestik aan die kos.

“Dit was van die vreesaanjaendste ervarings en dit het daagliks gebeur.”

Lees ook: Hier is nóg ’n rede waarom jy nie moet drink terwyl jy swanger is nie

Volgens Ilza het Alexzander se toestand haar mettertyd nie meer gepla nie.

“Later sien ’n mens dit nie meer nie en wanneer hy geglimlag het, was dit die beste van alles.”

Volgens die mediese fonds Discovery word die prosedure om ’n gesplete verhemelte te herstel deur jou mediese fonds gedek aangesien dit as ’n geboorte-afwyking beskou word en dit ’n rekonstruktiewe operasie is, pleks van ’n kosmetiese, maar talle gesinne, soos die Lange-gesin, het nie ’n mediese fonds om die koste te dek nie.

Lees ook: Oorlewingswenke vir enkelouers

Ná sy geboorte het Ilza en haar gesin begin navorsing doen oor sy toestand.

“Ons het als nagelees wat ons kon aan sy toestand en hoe ons dit kon hanteer; toe kom ons af op OS.”

Dié organisasie sonder winsoogmerk bied gratis operasies aan behoeftige kinders met ’n gesplete verhemelte en lip. OS dek die koste van die operasie deur geld wat hulle van skenkers kry. Gesinne word gekeur op grond van hul finansiële omstandighede.
Klein Alexzander was een van die gelukkiges wat hierdie driekwartier lange operasie kon kry.

Alexzander glimlag ná sy operasie van oor tot oor. Foto: Verskaf

Alexzander glimlag ná sy operasie van oor tot oor. Foto: Verskaf

“Toe ek hom vir die eerste keer sien ná die operasie, het hy vir my soos die mooiste baba op aarde gelyk. My vrees dat hy nooit sal inpas en ’n normale lewe lei nie, het binne oomblikke verdwyn,” sê Ilza.



So is die lewe van kinders met ’n gesplete lip en verhemelte

● ’n Baba wat met ’n gesplete verhemelte gebore word, se kans is twee keer groter om voor sy eerste verjaardag te sterf.
● Kinders wat nie die operasie ondergaan nie, het dikwels probleme met asemhaling, eet, drink en praat. Baie ly aan wanvoeding en mediese en psigologiese probleme.
● Baie kinders met ’n gesplete verhemelte en lip ly aan gehoorverlies.
● Die prosedure kos sowat R5 500.

Hoe werk die operasie?

● ’n Gesplete lip word gewoonlik reggemaak wanneer die baba tussen drie en ses maande oud is.
● Tydens die prosedure heg die dokter die lip sodat die gaping verdwyn.

● Gesplete verhemelte word gewoonlik tussen nege en 12 maande reggemaak.
● Tydens die prosedure maak dokters die gat tussen die verhemelte en die neus toe en verbind die spiere in die sagte verhemelte. 

04 March 2016

#OperationSmile marks a decade in SA with new campaign

#OperationSmile marks a decade in SA with new campaign

Two children are the latest to receive free cleft lip and palate surgeries.

Alexander Coetzee is back home after his cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. Picture: supplied

JOHANNESBURG – NGO Operation Smile has launched a new media campaign in the hopes of removing the stigma around children born with cleft lip and palate deformities, and providing the necessary medical assistance to them.

The organisation founded in South Africa in 2006 has been providing free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities to thousands across the continent.

Two boys, 11-month-old Ofentse Sithole and nine-month-old Alexzander Coetzee, are the latest to have their condition corrected following operations at a hospital in Durban.

The new campaign, Operation 45, signals 45 minutes, the length of a half in a football match and the time it takes to perform a cleft lip correction surgery, and follows the progress of the two boys in a two part documentary.

Watch: Operation 45 Episode 2


Regional Director Tamlin Abrahams explained the concept to Eyewitness News.

“Ultimately, the goal of Operation 45 is to destigmatise cleft lips and cleft palates. Soccer is a sport widely understood and appreciated by all, so it made sense to use it to make the operations relatable to the public and help individuals connect with the campaign.”

She says Operation 45 will expose how quick and affordable it can be to fix this condition, and highlighted the difference that repairing a cleft lip or cleft palate can make for an individual.

“We want the public to become excited about the chance to change someone’s life. Whether it’s donating, organising a campaign in your office, or volunteering non-medical professionals are also always needed to help. We want Operation 45 to show just how easy it is to get involved. Perhaps, most importantly, we want this campaign to publicise the availability of these surgeries through Operation Smile and push people to register children in need of help.”

The organisation has encouraged patients who need surgery to come forward and visit their website which will serve as the base for parents to register children.

The public is also encouraged sign up to volunteer or donate.

11-month-old Ofentse Sithole with his mother Nomsa.

11-month-old Ofentse Sithole with his mother Nomsa. Picture: Operation Smile.

nine-month-old Alexzander Coetzee with his mother Ilze Lange. Picture: supplied

Nine-month-old Alexzander Coetzee with his mother Ilze Lange. Picture: Operation Smile.

03 March 2016

See sweet boys before and after cleft lip surgery

Beautiful documentary marks ten years of Operation Smile in South Africa.
 03 March 2016  0 Comment

In its '#Operation45' campaign, Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) has released its second documentary to mark ten years of operations in South Africa.

The documentary focuses on two young boys, Ofentse Sithole & Alexzander Coetzee, who were both born with cleft lip complications

Alexzander Coetzee


Ofentse Sithole

Cleft lip, often associated with cleft palate, is a common birth defect in South Africa. WebMD describes it as "a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip." 

Operation Smile has given many other free cleft lip surgeries in the past, but the video below features it's two most recent operations. 

Take a look at episode 1 of OSSA's second documentary to mark its tenth year of successful operations:

Video via Youtube


05 February 2016

Smiles for boys in life-changing operations

dailynews/news / 
05 February 2016 at 15:04pm

By: Mphathi Nxumalo

Durban - Two little boys at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital have been given what other children have – a smile.

Fourteen-month-old Ofentse Sithole, who lives in Mpumalanga, and 9-month-old Alexander Coetzee, of Westonaria, Gauteng, checked into the hospital earlier this week for life-changing operations.

They were born with disfiguring cleft lips, and Ofentse’s mother, Nomsa Sithole, said children used to call her son a vampire because of his looks.

“I was shocked at the way he looked when he was born and I wondered if there was something wrong with my body,” she said.

Doctors told her that her son’s cleft lip could be fixed and that he would look normal like other children.

She did not believe them at first – and then they told her about Operation Smile, an international non-governmental organisation, which has a branch in South Africa and which pays for reconstructive surgery for patients.

Operations to repair cleft palates are also carried out.

Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital is one of the hospitals in the country where the operations are performed.


Medical teams of 15 volunteers this week operated on Ofentse and Alexander, to change their looks and lives.

And all it took was 45 minutes.

“I am extremely happy with the operation. Ofentse looks like everyone else now and no one will tease him again,” said Sithole.

Communications co-ordinator for Operation Smile, Sean Robson, said: “Children become undersized for their age because they can’t eat or latch on to the mother’s breast.”

Operation Smile South Africa organised 56 operations in the country last year and the international NGO organised 1 000 operations around Africa.

Ofentse and Alexander’s surgery coincided with Operation Smile’s 10th anniversary in South Africa.

Robson said parents and the public should be educated that a child born with a cleft lip or palate was not cursed or taboo.

“Once they realise that it is not a stigma or curse, they themselves go out into communities to educate people,” Robson said.

* To get in touch with Operation Smile, contact the toll free number: 08000SMILE(76453)

31 July 2015

SABC Interview

Operation Smile initiative in Africa: Tamlin Abrahams

31 July 2015

Dax Martin


Dax's Duds

Staff reporter | 31 July, 2015 00:09

Q&A with Dax Martin and Gayle Johnston

What do you design?

We focus on swimwear, lingerie and active wear.

Inspiration behind your new collection?

Our current collection is inspired by African beadwork and the evolution of African women's clothing to Western dress styles, with the use of thick woven fabrics and ric-rac trims, used in original digital prints.

Your role models?

Dax: I've always admired Sophia Loren.

Gayle: Kate Moss for her natural, effortless style and beauty; ''James Bond" and Jane Fonda.

Explain Operation Smile

It's an organisation of medical specialists who help people who can't afford the correct medical attention for cleft palates. A 45-minute operation can change a child's life, and we're delighted to be working with them to make more surgery possible.

Your involvement with the initiative?

We've designed an active-wear range, exclusively for Operation Smile, which will be available for purchase on our website. All proceeds from the retail mark-up will go directly to Operation Smile.

29 July 2015

How Operation Smile SA performed 273 facial reconstructive surgeries on kids in DRC in 10 days

28 July, 02:26 PM

Operation Smile South Africa performed 250 cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries in the Democratic Republic of Congo in ten days. Watch!

Jerusha Sukhdeo-Raath speaks to Jason Sive, Director at Operation Smile, who described how 84 people worked together to operate on the 273 children.

Click here to view the full story.

27 July 2015

City Press Article

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