A Harborough man has returned from a “life changing” trip to Vietnam where he visited people who are benefiting from the help of international children’s charity Smile Train.
Peter Hames had donated to the charity, which helps children born with cleft palates, for several years and wanted to visit the new Children’s Hospital in Vientiane, Laos, to witness first-hand the difference his money was making to local children’s lives.
During his time at the hospital, Peter met Smile Train’s Laos country manager, Dzung T Nguyen, and senior surgeon, Dr Chay Phachanh, who educated him on the process of finding and treating children who suffer with cleft lip and/or palate within the region.
Peter said: “Meeting with Dzung and Dr Chay Phachanh was an unforgettable and life-changing experience, and completely opened my eyes to how vital cleft surgery is for children living in Laos and similar parts of the world.
“I learned that children with clefts are often hidden away from their community, so the first - and most difficult - task for Smile Train is to reach out and find them.
“Smile Train is such a great charity because the surgery they help fund for children is totally life-changing.
“The opportunity to have a procedure to treat their cleft is a gift and can have a huge positive impact on the whole family - it’s like a rebirth for the family.”
Following his visit, Peter has decided to launch an internationally-themed festival called East West Fest - Bringing the World Together in two different locations – Harborough and Bournemouth – to raise additional funds for Smile Train. The festivals, which are currently being organised, will invite local residents to join together and experience arts, crafts, foods and textiles from all over the globe.
Hannah Weston, community and events manager, fundraising at Smile Train UK commented: “We were so pleased to hear that Peter was enlightened by his trip to our partner hospital in Vientiane. It’s always so fantastic to hear that our fundraisers have taken an extra special interest in the work we carry out, and it’s a great opportunity for us to highlight how vital the money they are raising is to children in developing countries.”