12-Yr-Old With Birth Difference Overcomes Bullies To Become Taekwondo Pro.

Nazareno holds up his baby picture before cleft repair and poses with sensei at World Cups

For a lot of children, being born with a cleft means not being able to grow and thrive.

Twelve years ago, Nazareno was born with a cleft lip and palate in Santiago del Estero, Argentina. His parents discovered Smile Train, a global charity that empowers local healthcare professionals to make cleft treatment accessible to patients worldwide. Thanks to Smile Train, the boy received the care he needed.

In the more than 20 years Smile Train has operated, they’ve transformed the lives of over 1.5 million children like Nazareno. With their help, Nazareno received life-changing cleft surgery, followed by all of the continued care and therapy he needed, all for free. His parents were diligent with his care and treatment from a young age, and it was their strong support that helped him gain confidence as he got older.

“My parents always gave me their support to achieve my goals,” he said. “Throughout my treatment, I received a lot of help from my parents, who took me to all my checkups. Now I am receiving dental checkups and orthodontic treatments.”

To keep bullies at bay, Nazareno took up taekwondo at about 6 years old. Over the years, he worked hard in the dojo and eventually worked his way up to a black belt. He made new friends and built up his confidence through the sport, especially once he decided to earn a spot competing at the Junior World Cup.

“To qualify for the World Cup I had to train a lot, I went to the nutritionist, the gym, had to maintain discipline to keep improving,” he recalled.

All of Nazareno’s hard work paid off in 2022, when he placed second in the world at the Junior World Cup in the Netherlands!

As Nazareno continues to excel both on the taekwondo mat and off, he is quick to thank the people who made this new life of athletic competition happen for him. Without Smile Train helping his parents navigate those scary first months of his life, who knows if he’d be able to accomplish so much in so few years?

Nazareno is just one of many children whose lives have been changed for the better thanks to Smile Train’s critical work around the globe. Their method of locating children in need, enabling local health professionals, and providing comprehensive care is literally saving lives. You can help by donating!

Watch the video below to learn more, and don’t forget to share this story to wish Nazareno well as he heads back onto the mat to prepare for next year’s competition.

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