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From Shy Teenager to Confident Techie with a Passion for Teaching

Zaiba Khanum smiling

“Let your smile change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.”

Zaiba Khanum was a shy teenager from Bengaluru who faced challenges communicating with her family and friends. She was born with a cleft, which made her conscious of her appearance and how differently people looked at her. For a young girl entering the formative years of her education and adolescence, these were significant hurdles to overcome as she prepared to transition from her sheltered family life and all-girls schooling to the real world.

Zaiba had already received her primary cleft surgeries but faced additional problems with speech and the alignment of her teeth and jaw. Her parents could not afford the secondary, complex procedures she needed, and if her experiences in high school and PUC were any indicators of what the rest of her life would be like, they feared the worst.

Thankfully, that’s when they found Smile Train. With their support, Zaiba received speech and orthodontic treatment at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, followed by four secondary surgeries, all for free. Finally able to speak and smile her best, Zaiba began to feel like nothing could hold her back.

Today, Zaiba is a confident and independent young woman in her fourth year of computer science at the Oxford College of Engineering, Bengaluru. While she enjoys her course, she fosters a passion for teaching and helping others gain access to the same opportunities she has enjoyed. In the last six months, she has been helping many students by teaching the Quran, among other subjects. As someone who felt social isolation herself, she hopes to play a role in encouraging other students to find their own paths to happiness and success.

Zaiba Khanum smiling with Mamta Carroll and Harnaaz Sandhu

In her own words, “A few years back, I was afraid to talk to others, wanted to avoid meeting people. The comprehensive cleft treatment I received at Smile Train partner Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital not only improved my speech and appearance but also gave me the confidence to lead a full life. Today, I love the person I am and look forward to living life to the fullest.”

When asked for any advice she has for other children with clefts, she said, “Let your smile change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.”

Help other children with clefts in India change the world with their smiles.

Our impact in India

as of April 2023


cleft surgeries sponsored since 2001


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