“I Saw A Different Person Looking Back At Me.” Mom Recalls Moment Her Life Changed Forever As A Child. “I Think That Was The First Time I Ever Smiled.”

When it comes to leading a happy and successful life, confidence is key.


Growing up in the Jiangsu Province of China, Wang Li had almost no self confidence because she was born with a cleft. Other kids refused to play with her and teased her for her birth difference. She lived her life on the fringes of society, embarrassed and constantly afraid to show her face.

Wang Li before surgery
Smile Train

Wang Li’s parents were factory workers whose salary barely covered the family’s expenses. They assumed surgery to heal their daughter’s cleft was way out of their budget, but then a chance encounter with the neighborhood trash collector changed everything in an instant.

The man had read about Smile Train, then-new charitable organization that teams up with local hospitals to heal clefts. The best part? All surgeries are provided free of charge thanks to generous donors from around the world!

Wang Li and her family wasted no time going to Nanjing Stomatology Hospital for a consultation. She was quickly approved, making her the very first person to ever receive a life-altering surgery sponsored by Smile Train.

“Before I knew about Smile Train, I couldn’t imagine that I was able to go to school,” she recalled. “After the surgery, I remember a nurse gave me a mirror and I couldn’t believe that it was me in the mirror.”

After her cleft was healed, Wang Li’s confidence soared. She went back to school and excelled, no longer the subject of ridicule and open stares.

“When I looked into the mirror, I saw a different person looking back at me – a smiling person,” she said. “I think that was the first time I ever smiled.”

Wang Li wedding
Smile Train

Being able to move through the world with self confidence transformed Wang Li’s life in innumerable ways. Without the surgery, she doubts she ever would have met her husband, got married, and had a son. She couldn’t be more grateful to Smile Train for providing her with the resources she thought were so far beyond her grasp.

“It’s your kindness and love that allowed me the chance to have such a happy family,” Wang Li said. “I believe if everyone could contribute a piece of love, Smile Train could bring smiles to everywhere in the world.”

Wang Li and family
Smile Train

Twenty years later, Smile Train’s very first surgery recipient is thriving! She and her husband started their own delivery business, and her son is 4 years old and a complete joy to his parents. Smile Train has also expanded to more than 70 countries, helping more than 1.5 million people with clefts achieve the kind of life they once thought impossible.

You can help people like Wang Li find their smiles by donating to Smile Train. Share this story to spread the word.

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