January 21, 2010 02:00 PM

For most of us smiling is an effortless act, occurring dozens of times — spontaneously — throughout the course of a day. Children afflicted with a cleft lip and palate are unable to smile, however, leading to isolation and depression. All their suffering could be alleviated with a surgery lasting 45 minutes and costing just $250, but for many the price tag is quite simply too steep.

The Smile Train has made it a mission to provide free cleft surgery for millions of children living in underdeveloped countries, as well as free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals. Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek recently traveled to India on behalf of the organization, and was struck by the work that’s being done. “It’s such a tangible way of knowing that you’re making a difference,” she explained in a recent interview. “You are giving children a life.”

Courtesy Smile Train

Click below to learn more about Smile Train and their mission.

Focused on 76 of the world’s poorest countries, Smile Train differentiates itself from other facial deformity charities by focusing solely on cleft lip and palate issues. It also performs the surgery for less than any other cleft charity, and with the best overall safety and quality record.

Of course a child’s road to recovery doesn’t end with the surgery, and Smile Train provides continuous support afterward, including dental care, speech therapy and orthodontic work. Sometimes help even begins beforehand, with the poorest patients who are too malnourished to withstand the procedure. For those boys and girls, Smile Train provides food and care.

In India alone, the organization will provide 50,000 cleft repairs this year — and no child in need will be turned away. Vowing to return each year for a week, Jane noted in a separate interview,

To find out how you can help, click here. Jane is mom to Frances Genevieve, 13, George Edward, 10, and Mary Louisa, 7, with estranged husband Bradley Whitford.

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