New ward opened for Smile Week

Ray Maota

Children with physical challenges such
as a cleft lip undergo surgery to give
them a smile. 
(Image: Hospital Nazareth)

Mthobi Tyamzashe, chairman of the
Vodacom Foundation, says they’re
privileged to help youngsters regain
 the full use of their facial expressions.


• Marc Lubner
Chairman, The Smile Foundation
+27 11 783 4177
• Mthobi Tyamzashe
Chairman, Vodacom Foundation
+27 11 653 5885

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A revamped ward was recently unveiled at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to coincide with the Vodacom Smile Week, during which affected children undergo free reconstructive facial surgery.

Smile Week ran from 29 November to 3 December 2010, and the ward was opened on the first day of the campaign. The refurbishment was sponsored by Vodacom and the Smile Foundation, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Previously, the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Baragwanath had only six cots for paediatric patients, while adults were spread out across other wards. Thanks to the alterations, the department will now have a dedicated facility for all its patients, whether they’re waiting for or recovering from surgery.

“This is the ninth time Vodacom has partnered with the Smile Foundation for a Smile Week, and it is something Vodacom as an organisation feels passionate about,” said Mthobi Tyamzashe, chairperson of the Vodacom Foundation.

During this recent Smile Week, 22 children underwent plastic and reconstructive surgery at the hospital, giving them a new lease on life. Due to the prohibitive expense, many South Africans with facial abnormalities never get the chance to access such treatment.

“All children deserve the chance to reach their full potential in life and the Vodacom Foundation is very privileged to partner with the Smile Foundation in helping these youngsters regain the full use of their facial expressions,” said Tyamzashe.

The surgical procedures will go a long way towards boosting the youngsters’ confidence, as individuals can be rejected by their communities due to their abnormalities. The families of affected children also benefit, as they no longer need to administer special care.

Although the most recent Smile Week was the first time the Smile Foundation had partnered with Baragwanath, it ran five similar campaigns at other hospitals in 2010. There have been almost 200 young beneficiaries during this year alone.

Baragwanath is situated in south-west Johannesburg and borders Soweto, South Africa’s largest and most famous township.

Marc Lubner, executive chairperson of the Smile Foundation, said: “The foundation is encouraged by Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and Vodacom’s trust in us and promises that we will continue to deliver augmented services to the Plastic and Reconstructive Department of the hospital, and continue to put smiles on these children’s faces.

“It is a momentous time in the Smile Foundation’s history as this is the first occasion where we can show a dedicated permanent structure that ensures a long-term relationship between three critical parties, Vodacom, the Department of Health and Smile Foundation,” he added.

The inaugural partnership with Baragwanath represents big things for the Smile Foundation.

“By hosting this Vodacom Smile Week at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, we are entering into the largest hospital in the southern hemisphere, and we view this as the first step towards extending our footprint into Soweto and its surrounds.”

Other Smile Weeks this year have been held at Tygerberg Academic Hospital and the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in the Western Cape; Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, Gauteng; Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein, Free State; and George Mukhari Hospital in Garankuwa in the North West.

Life-changing treatment

The Smile Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that concentrates on helping children with facial abnormalities, such as cleft lips and palates, receive reconstructive surgery.

It was launched in 2000 as The Star Smile Fund in association with The Star newspaper, following a request by former president Nelson Mandela to secure surgery for a young child suffering from facial nerve paralysis.

In 2007, after tremendous growth, the fund was re-launched as a non-profit company and named the Smile Foundation.

“Through the work that the Smile Foundation does, Vodacom has supported this partnership with the Department of Health in giving children a chance to have life-changing surgery,” said Lewis.

Patients are sourced through hospital referral systems, word of mouth, donor referrals, media awareness campaigns and the foundation’s toll-free number: +27 87 808 8682.

Once a patient is brought to the foundation’s attention, he or she is assessed and, if the condition is serious, the child is slotted into the nearest participating hospital’s surgery schedule. If the child can wait, he or she is booked for surgery during the next Smile Week.

Giving back to the community

The Vodacom Foundation was established in 1999 to carry out the company’s social responsibility commitments focusing on health, education and security in underprivileged communities.

In the past 10 years, the organisation has achieved the following:


  • Issuing 1 000 bursaries for tertiary education through the Vodacom External Bursary Scheme
  • Establishing about 150 new computer centres in public schools
  • Supporting the national Department of Education in setting up 405 e-libraries in schools
  • Participating in a public-private partnership to build and equip the Jabavu Library in Soweto


  • Ensuring that 484 children with facial abnormalities receive corrective surgery through partnerships with the Smile Foundation
  • Ensuring that 71 children receive life-saving heart surgery through a partnership with the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre for Africa
  • Providing a customised mobile eye care clinic to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health
  • Donating about R25-million (US$ 3.6-million) to HIV/Aids causes through the sales of Vodacom 46664 starter packs


  • Establishing seven sexual offences courts
  • Setting up hospitable care centres for rape survivors
  • Supporting the establishment of Kimberley’s Committee for Crime Prevention, which helps care for homeless children in the Northern Cape

Origins of one of the largest hospitals in the world

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the largest acute hospital in the world. It covers an area of 0.7 square kilometres and consists of 429 buildings. The hospital serves approximately 3.5-million people in Soweto and it provides half of all the hospital services in southern Gauteng.

The facility is named after slain South African Communist leader Chris Hani and John Albert Baragwanath, who came from the UK to Johannesburg after the discovery of gold in the late 1800s.

John Albert owned a small hostel where the hospital stands today. Although it was called the Wayside Inn, transport drivers and passengers who passed through the area called it “Baragwanath’s Place” or just “Baragwanath”.

The hospital was first named Baragwanath on 23 September 1942, with Hani’s name being added to it in 1997.

Hani was born on 28 June in 1942 in the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape. As a member of the African National Congress (ANC), he became an integral part of the struggle against apartheid. When he was assassinated on 10 April 1993, he was also the chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC.

Renaming the hospital was part of the South African government’s campaign to preserve the history of the country’s landmarks, while making them relevant to today.