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A father whose son just received reconstructive surgery from Operation Smile

There’s something about a child’s smile that’s magical. Is there anything more innocent, mischievous, and beautiful in the world? Is there anything more heartbreaking when that smile is lost to a facial birth defect?

I’m not just being poetic — there are very real cultural and medical consequences for children born with cleft palates and cleft lips. They are mocked and ridiculed. Eating and speaking are difficult, and these children often end up totally dependent on their families who may even shut them away, believing them to be cursed.

Child

Children who grow up with unrepaired cleft lips and cleft palates may have difficulty developing social skills or leading productive lives, which is why it’s so heartwarming to see the difference made in their lives by Operation Smile.

This past spring, we worked with Operation Smile to collect messages of hope for the children of Madagascar suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates. Since 1982, Operation Smile’s medical teams have treated more than 115,000 children worldwide, but this was only the organization’s second mission to Madagascar.

The results though were astounding: 211 free reconstructive surgeries over the course of five days.

So many lives touched! There was one mother and child that walked through the Madagascaran rainforest for three days, a young man who was ashamed to leave his village because of his disfigurement, and a 28 year-old whose name translated into “cleft lip.” This man said that he planned to change his name when he returned home and to get a new ID card with a new picture.

Surgery

These changed lives were the result of an international team of medical and non-medical volunteers, who came from as far away as

Canada, Holalnd, Italy, South Africa, the UK, and the USA. And I would be remiss to mention the supporters and donors who were able to make these miracles happen. Each surgery costs $240 — what a small price to pay to literally change someone’s life!

And as for the messages of encouragement collected from Care2 members? We collected 7,649, and the names and messages were posted on the walls of the playroom just before the children went into surgery.

As one Care2 member put it:

Little Ones, you are BEAUTIFUL! I wish I could give you all a big hug! But I send my love and prayers for you instead. God bless you and those wonderful caring people who are helping you!

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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To read more about Operation Smile’s mission to Madagascar, please visit the mission report at http://www.operationsmile.org/missions/reports/?country=MG.

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