Proper medical care has the power to completely turn someone’s life around. From allowing a child to get all the nutrition they need to giving an entire family a fresh start, healing clefts is truly lifesaving.
So in honor of Global Surgery Day, we are highlighting some incredible Smile Train-supported stories to spread hope, one smile at a time!
1. “I cried and cried out of joy. We couldn’t stop staring at her because her face had completely changed. … It was like she had come back to life.”
Mia’s parents learned about her cleft through an ultrasound, and right away the condition started causing issues for the infant. Her mom had to have a C-section because Mia wasn’t gaining weight, and once she was born, feeding continued to be a struggle.
The family’s medical insurance would only cover half the cost of surgery. Worse yet, doctors said it would be two years before they could heal her cleft! Knowing time was critically short due to Mia’s problems with eating, they did some Googling and found Asociación PIEL, a Smile Train partner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that helps babies with clefts. They were able to help Mia gain the weight she needed to have surgery, then heal her cleft. When her parents saw her new smile, they felt like she’d been reborn!
2. “Kioko used his new smile as a fresh start. Once his scars healed, he began the process of coming out of his shell. Though he can still be shy and reserved at times, he now walks around town with his friends by his side, his head held high, and his smile beaming bright.”
Kioko was born on a remote farm in Kenya. His parents had no way to pay for cleft surgery, so they focused their efforts on giving him as much self-confidence as they could. But when he was old enough for school, the children were so cruel that he couldn’t stand it. He abandoned his education and spent the next decade with no friends outside of his family.
Finally, as a teenager, a neighbor told his parents that Smile Train was offering free cleft surgeries from local doctors at a nearby hospital. They made the journey, and now Kioko is a living a life he never dreamed possible.
3. “We are so grateful to the doctors, Smile Train’s donors, and everybody who helped our little one. Look at her now! Fernanda can go to school, just like all of the other children her age. I wish that the people who helped us will always have the strength and energy to continue and that they’ll keep on helping more people.”
Fernanda’s mother was just 17 when she was born, so she was still adjusting to being a mom even before learning her baby had a cleft. She struggled to breastfeed her little one, and the baby began losing weight rapidly. Living high in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador meant the family had little access to healthcare or other experts, so finding help for Fernanda seemed impossible.
Then a family friend referred them to a Smile Train partner doctor in a nearby city. They made the journey down the mountain, where Fernanda finally received the life-changing surgery and speech therapy she desperately needed. Today, Fernanda is a healthy and happy child who loves to show off her smile!
4. “It is okay to be surprised and afraid when your child is born with a cleft, but I want to reassure all other mothers of children with clefts that their babies will be okay — just love them.”
Jamuna admits she was in shock when she first saw her son Jenious’s cleft because she’d never seen or even heard of the condition before. But as she gazed into her baby’s eyes, she knew in her heart that her job as a mother was to love him unconditionally — and find help to heal his cleft.
Jenious qualified for cleft surgery through a Smile Train partner in Nepal, and he’s been thriving ever since! He’s now 6 years old and living up to his name as one of the smartest kids in his class.
5. “I’m so thankful to Smile Train for promoting comprehensive care rather than providing only campaign-based surgeries. After all, the best surgeon in the world cannot influence a child’s speech development. I really appreciate that Smile Train listens to other specialists and works with us.”
Speech therapist Evelyn Caserres-Nano feels passionately about helping people communicate effectively. She’s worked with children with clefts for the past 10 years in Peru, working to overcome lingering issues kids have with their speech after having surgery. She has seen Smile Train change lives firsthand, and she is proud to partner with them to reach even more children who might not ever have been able to afford cleft treatments without them.
6. “We were in such a rush to have her treated that she still didn’t have a name when we first met the doctor, so he called her Samnang, which means lucky.”
Samnang’s very name means, “lucky,” and so far, she’s living up to it! Samnang’s family was shocked when the baby girl was born with a cleft, and they didn’t know where to start when it came to treatments. When they learned that a hospital in Cambodia partnered with Smile Train to provide free cleft care, they jumped on the opportunity to heal Samnang’s cleft.
She was just three months old when she had her surgery. She’s 10 now, and brimming with self-confidence!
7. “Thank you, Smile Train, for finally letting me smile at my beautiful family.”
When Maria was born in Kenya back in 1953, there wasn’t much help for people born with clefts. She lived her entire life with her cleft, enduring stares from strangers and cruel remarks from other people in their village. She got married and had children, then welcomed 16 grandchildren to the world, all while living with an untreated cleft.
When she finally heard about Smile Train, some family members told her she was too old to have her cleft healed. She refused to believe them, walking for 2 days to get to her nearest Smile Train partner hospital for her free surgery. Now, she’s finally living without fear and enjoying every moment with her grandkids.
None of these transformations would have been possible without Smile Train’s support! Learn more about their incredible work here, and find out how you can help provide these life-changing surgeries.
Don’t forget to share these stories to encourage someone who is struggling today.
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