A SIMPLE operation changed Wang Li’s life just as it has done for thousands of other children in poorer countries across the world.
In a concert at Armitage Bridge next weekend, singer Norman Mellor and some of his many musical friends will be staging a concert with one aim. To put smiles on the faces of many children by supporting the work of Smile Train, the charity that helped Wang Li.
It is four years since Norman who lives in Meltham, organised his first concert for Smile Train.
A leaflet about the charity dropped through his letterbox and Norman was so moved by what he read that he wanted to help.
“Smile Train raises money to help children in poorer countries who are born with a cleft lip and palate,” he said.
“Just £150 puts that right. I thought that if I could raise just over £1,000, I could help about seven children.”
“The operation to resolve this condition is done quickly here, but in some countries families with children with this problem are shunned and even in some cases kicked out of their villages.
“There are children who cannot eat, drink or speak properly because of this problem. It’s dreadful in this day and age.
“The lives these children lead must be dreadful.
“In this country, children with this sort of problem get proper medical attention and the care that they need for this sort of condition so it is perhaps difficult for us to understand what children in other places have to deal with.”
“From the information provided by the charity it seems that a cleft palate can be remedied surgically in about 45 minutes. And the surgeons who work with The Smile Train give their services free.”
Figures from the charity show that in the last fiscal year, it provided more than 122,500 cleft surgeries taking the total in 13 years to more than three-quarters of a million procedures.
In the same year it expanded into three new countries, Chad, Gabon and the Republic of Congo bringing the total of countries where it has supported this type of surgery to 87 and has launched speech therapy and orthodontics pilot programmes in an effort to provide more comprehensive care.
For Norman, who has three sons, two daughters and a clutch of grandchildren, family and music are everything.
Over the last 40 years, he has used his musical talents and his contacts to raise thousands of pounds for charity, many of them working with children and young people.
Norman will be putting his own big voice to work in next Saturday’s concert at St Paul’s Church in Armitage Bridge and has persuaded many of his friends to join him.
Tenor Richard Cook, a popular figure from operatic circles will be using his lyrical voice to sing some favourite melodies from the shows.
There will be music too from Danny Bullett, also a tenor and one of Norman’s long-standing colleagues in Honley Male Voice Choir.
Look out for an Octet, Eight In A Bar (get it?), a team of singers, also from the choir. And you’d better get counting. It’s all part of the joke. Because whatever else you get in this concert, there will be bags of humour as well as good singing.
RUGS, in other words, the Really Useless Theatre Group – and that’s what they call themselves – combine comedy and sketches. It’s all delivered by Pat Graham and friends.
Chris Comber, who has appeared with a number of the area’s operatic societies, will be making people smile with his song and dance talents and Elaine Cockram’s singing will lift anyone’s spirits.
Katey’s Dancers offer some sparkling dance moves and all the practised and polished piano work is courtesy of Gordon Balmforth and George Marsden.
Special guest is teenager Lydia Wyatt who plays piano and flute and won a number of prizes at this year’s Mrs Sunderland competition.
Lydia, 14, lives in Rastrick and plays in the National Children’s Orchestra and Kirklees Youth Orchestra.
This talented young musician has also accompanied Opus 44 on the flute, played for the Halifax Choral Society and Black Dyke Band in the Victoria Theatre in Halifax and in May, took part in a concert in London’s Royal festival Hall as part of the renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang’s concert.
Together, Norman Mellor and friends hope to give at least some children the hope of a future in which they can do with delight what we all take for granted and that’s simply to smile.
The concert starts at 7pm. Tickets are £6 from Norman on 01484 851060 or on the door.