“In The Past, Children Bullied Me At School.” Boy Gets Brand-New Start Thanks To Life-Saving Health Care. “I Am A Happy Child.”

juan laughing with his mouth wide open as his mom stands with him, smiling at him.

Living with a cleft hasn’t been easy for Juan. But with the help of Smile Train, he’s gained access to medical care that has immensely improved his confidence, friendships, and future. Hear more about Juan’s journey in his own words below.

My name is Juan. I am from Isla de Maipo, Chile. I live with my dad, my mom, my dogs, and a rabbit. And I was born with a cleft.

closeup of juan smiling as he wades in an outdoor pool.
Smile Train

I don’t remember anything about my first years with my cleft. All I know is that when I was little, my parents found Fundación Gantz in Santiago, where I have gone for free treatment thanks to Smile Train ever since. Every time I go to Fundación Gantz, my parents support me. I thank them for that because it is not easy to arrive on time for checkups. We have to get up at six in the morning to drive for more than an hour in traffic and be careful not to get hit by other cars.

Fundación Gantz has helped me a lot. First, they healed my cleft lip. Then, with orthodontic treatment, they managed to correct my bite. And later they will perform a jawbone surgery.

juan and another child with their arms around one another as they play in a pool.
Smile Train

Today, when someone asks me what the little mark on my lip is, I tell them. It has never bothered me because it is so small that you can hardly see it.

In the past, children bullied me at school. I started training in taekwondo at the age of four in a gym next to my kindergarten and it was just what I needed at that time. Learning karate has also helped me. It made me more confident — before, children hit me, and now they respect me.

juan smiling. he's posing with his large taekwondo trophy in one hand while, with the other, he does a taekwondo pose. he's wearing his taekwondo uniform.
Smile Train

I had a friend once who was not really such a friend, because he always hit me. I stayed friends with him because I was afraid of being alone, but he wasn’t really my friend. Now, in karate, I have made several friends who, although they are not my age, I get along with well. Once, when I was in a ring, I was picked on by other kids and they stood up for me.

I don’t tell my friends much about my achievements, but when they walk into my bedroom, they are amazed by the trophies I have. Then I tell them my story.

closeup of baby juan before he got cleft care.
Smile Train

I like the doctors who treat me, and I have a doctor who is my favorite — she has known me since I was born. I also like the doctor who performs my orthodontic treatment. I have a plate in my mouth for my orthodontics. It used to leave a bad taste in my mouth every time I removed it, and the doctor managed to make me no longer feel that sensation. I don’t know how he did it. It’s impressive.

Once we met a family at Gantz who had forgotten an orthodontic appliance and the patient’s mother was very sad. Since I no longer had to use it, my mom offered mine to her and in this way, we were able to help a family and make them happy.

juan smiling as he poses with his mom and dad outside by the pool.
Smile Train

As I said, I’m now doing orthodontic treatment to have good teeth. I notice the progress in my treatments, especially with the teeth that are now straight. I think that with all the treatment I’m doing, I’ll have a beautiful smile.

For my future, I wish to be healthy, because who knows what could happen? I hope COVID will end soon. Quarantine is too boring.

juan smiling as he rides his red bike down a road with trees on each side.
Smile Train

When I grow up, I would like to go to university and study mechanics. I would also like to be a truck driver because they are paid well and I find it fun to drive a loaded trailer. I would also like to have children.

I want to tell the professionals at Gantz to keep it up because their work is super good, and they help a lot of people who need it.

To someone who is beginning with orthodontics I would tell him not to be afraid, that nothing bad will happen. Sometimes it could hurt a little, but in the end, they will have super nice teeth.

juan laughing with his mouth wide open as his mom stands with him, smiling at him.
Smile Train

I also want to thank my parents for all the help they have given me throughout my treatment. Thanks to everything they do for me, I am a happy child.

The difficulties that people with clefts face goes far beyond appearance alone. Thanks to life-changing care, however, Juan’s future is brighter than ever — but he isn’t the only one who needs help. Share his story to support Smile Train in their efforts to support families around the world just like Juan’s.

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