Before joining the Smile Foundation and servicing underprivileged children in South Africa, Hedley Lewis worked for Vodacom. Working with, and learning from, some of the country’s finest leaders, Vodacom gave him the opportunity to shoot for the stars. He started working in the finance department and progressed to the managing directors’ office within the loyalty programmes department. During his time at Vodacom, he received the Managing Directors’ award. Hedley also worked at the Jewish Helping Hand organisation to motivate and encourage young Jewish members to support their community. Today, he is responsible for partnership growth, fundraising, management of budgets and finance as well as the marketing of the foundation. “Every day is totally different but there is one common thread: we are working together with the Department of Health and their hospitals to assist children to Smile.”
What are some of the challenges the Smile Foundation faces?
“Our major challenge is getting to the patients in the rural areas and dispelling the myths surrounding some of the conditions. Many children are ostracised in their communities because of these myths. Some of the other major challenges are insufficient resources, getting children to the hospitals and periodically these surgeries are cancelled due to various difficulties facing the public health sector.”
How do you overcome these challenges?
Hedley says, “we are committed to supporting plastic and reconstructive surgery within 12 academic hospitals countrywide. When we consider supporting a need in the hospital, we consider the budget and the sustainability of the project. And we always take the patients’ needs into consideration.
How is the Smile Foundation making a difference?
The Smile Foundation partners with the National Department of Health in 12 academic hospitals countrywide. Hedley and his team consider the urgent requests from surgeons and assess the validity and sustainability of such support. “Some of the areas we support are additional theatre time where possible, extra nursing staff, anaesthetists, consumables, medical equipment, transportation and psychological support. We are also currently busy with the refurbishment of two burns facilities.”
Any words of encouragement for communities who are in need of hope?
Where there’s a will, there is a way with the Smile Foundation. “We are very committed to supporting children in need of reconstructive surgery, and there are teams of incredible surgeons in these academic hospitals who are dedicated to helping these children.” He wants to reassure underprivileged families who need this service that it is available to all children without the necessary finances or medical aid.