Doha Ait is Smile Train’s Program Manager for Morocco. In honor of International Women’s Day, we caught up with this inspirational woman to learn more about her role, the future of cleft care in Morocco, the importance of Smile Train’s unique model, and more.
Describe your role and tell me about your journey to Smile Train.
After my graduation from university, I worked with the Peace Corps for eight years, then I joined another American organization for 10 years as their education abroad program manager. I decided to apply to Smile Train in late 2020. When I saw an announcement online about this position and what they do to support children and adults with clefts, I was immediately attracted to the idea of making 100%-free comprehensive cleft treatment available to all in need via a sustainable model of supporting local healthcare teams.
What are your strategies for raising awareness and growing programs?
As the first Program Manager for Smile Train in Morocco, my job is to launch our programs here — a task that has been both challenging and exciting. I use all possible public and private channels and media leads in my country to reach out to the patients.
Is there a patient who particularly inspired you?
Many patients have inspired me, especially those in remote areas who would never have had the opportunity to receive cleft treatment if not for Smile Train.
What was it like to meet a Smile Train patient and their family in person for the first time?
It was very emotional, especially when they informed me that I returned hope and smiles to their lives.
What are some challenges you have experienced working in Morocco? What are you doing to strengthen Smile Train’s programs across the country?
Like any other region, time is the challenge. We had no programs here when I started, and establishing a successful partnership takes a long time. But the more partners we can establish, the stronger our programs here will be.
Let’s talk about the First African Francophone Cleft Congress you organized last September. What it like to put on a major event like this as a woman?
I am proud that Morocco was the first country to organize and lead a first-class cleft congress dedicated to Smile Train’s Francophone partners. It was a great experience for me; I managed to pull off a great educational event. As a woman, I felt empowered by the support and education I received from my supervisor (who is also a woman) and my Smile Train Africa colleagues.
Why is Smile Train’s cause and model meaningful to you?
There is nothing more meaningful than being able to make another person smile, and Smile Train does that for families, patients, and health professionals every day. We save and change the lives of cleft-affected people tremendously.
What is your ultimate hope for healthcare in Africa?
I hope that no child or adult is ever challenged to find care when they don’t feel well. Furthermore, I hope no family is ever distressed because of a cleft since there is a solution.
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