Birmingham charity changes Chinese lives

Birmingham Chinatown businesses help Yunnan kids get Christmas smiles for life.

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In conjunction with Birmingham Chinatown businesses, a group of youngsters from Birmingham has been helping underprivileged children in China to smile for the first time this Christmas.

Project TOM – a voluntary, non-profit group that encourages more young people into charity work – has raised £2, 250 for 15 children’s surgeries in support of Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity.

Their latest mission to Yunnan province, China, took place between 26th November-2nd December 2014, where voluntary medical teams performed reconstructive surgery on over 60 children with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

Located in southwest China and with a population of 46.6 million, Yunnan province is considered as remote, poor and mountainous. By province, Yunnan has the largest number of poverty counties in China (88 out of 832). Approximately 1 in every 600 babies in China are born with a cleft lip and/or palate.

Since 1982, Operation Smile has changed the lives of more than 30,000 children in China alone and has provided more than 220,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips and cleft palates around the world, giving each one a new start in life.

Every three minutes a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. A child born with a cleft condition has twice the odds of dying before their first birthday. More than 200,000 children are born with severe cleft conditions every year, often unable to eat, speak, socialise or smile. Worldwide, clefts are the third most common birth defect and in the developing world 75% of these cases go untreated.

WaiLo Li, 30, a communications manager by day, founded Project TOM in her spare time; “We are delighted to be able to support Operation Smile with their Yunnan programme, as part of our annual festive charity event in the lead-up to Christmas. We’re pleased to have been able to help, even in such a small way – a big thank you to everyone who’s donated and helped to change a child’s life forever with a simple 45 minute surgery.

“We would also like to give thanks to our corporate donors including; Birmingham’s Chung Ying Restaurant Group (£800), Cafe Soya Restaurant Group (£300), Wing Wah Group (£50) and Manchester’s Sweet Mandarin Restaurant (£600). We’re incredibly grateful for their long-term support with our charity events and worthy causes around the world.”