Lives transformed in as little as 45 minutes.
Children who are born with cleft lip or cleft palate are faced with challenges many of us cannot ever imagine. Many have difficulty eating, speaking or even smiling and in some parts of the world, they are hidden away, kept from socialising, attending school or playing an active role in their community.
Operation Smile reverses this in less than an hour. Our volunteers work tirelessly to help these children have a bright and hopeful future. Throughout the world, more than 135,000 children have experienced this transformation, and a few of their stories are told here.
Tenebe Awoke had been born with a severe bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate, and had not been able to receive surgery during his first year of life.
When Habimana was born with a cleft lip, his mother Severina couldn’t nurse him. He suffered from malnutrition. At 7, when Operation Smile came to Rwanda, he was the size of a 5 year old.
Eleven-year-old Solomon is only in the third grade. He was tormented every day because of his cleft lip. Solomon's father borrowed the equivalent of six months salary to afford the two-day trip to Operation Smile's medical mission site in Ethiopia.
Lucas's father was born with a cleft and did not want his son to endure the shame he knew too well.
In Vietnamese, Ngan's name means "star," though she wasn’t able to smile brightly as she was born with a cleft lip and gaping hole in her palate.
Shaina's mother blamed herself for her daughter's cleft after falling from a hammock when pregnant
When Moraes was eight months old, her mother heard about the Operation Smile medical mission in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Heartbroken and with no hope of being able to afford the surgery Reepok needed, his mother agonised for nine desperate months until she heard about Operation Smile.
Ana came into the world with eyes that sparkled with intelligence and humor, but she couldn’t smile, because she was also born with a severe cleft lip.
When Rafiqul was born with a severe cleft lip, his parents were devastated. They could never hope to make enough money for the surgery their baby needed.
Even though he was born with a severe cleft lip, the smile in Daniel’s heart beamed through his twinkling eyes.
Adeline’s mother travelled a full day by bus to take her daughter to the medical project site with the hope that the cleft lip she was born with would finally be repaired.
Minda and Ruben never expected that their sixth child would be born with a huge hole in her lip.
Wearing a pair of bright red flip-flops that were three times the size of his feet, Kevin caught my attention as he stood against the wall at the hospital.
There are always giggly babies on medical projects – and Tafita definitely fit the bill
Stepping into the ward, one cannot ignore the little girl with broken smile looking at you from across the room
Maia's mum though her cleft lip was hear fault for not taking vitamins early enough in her pregnancy
As soon as Rodnel's grandmother saw on the television that Operation Smile were coming to a nearby hospital she scooped Rodnel up and rushed straight over
When Sebastian's mother Daniela got pregnant, she was ecstatic. But her joy turned to shock when her baby was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Daniela was wracked with guilt.
To her heartbroken mother, Lisha's facial deformity was a terrible curse. She knew how her girl would suffer. That she would be an outcast ' and probably never marry.
Karen Nicol was the apple of her father's eye. But when others looked at his baby girl, they only saw the cleft lip and cleft palate she was born with.
The cleft lip Fu Yun was born with made eating and speaking difficult. Other children laughed at her and made her cry.
Fowz loved her son, but knew she could never afford the surgery to mend his smile. She worried that he would be bound to a life of shame and isolation.
Adel's speech was so hindered by his cleft palate; his mother was worried his teacher would not be allowed to start school.
Ammulu was born with a severe facial deformity that made eating and drinking difficult.
Thanks to friends like you, Angel received a new smile and was spared the taunts and rejection that facial deformities bring. Now his future looks bright and filled with opportunity.
It took a village - and a world of compassion - to bring life-changing surgery to this Kenyan girl.
Brittany was treated in 2007 on a medical project in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Bryan had trouble eating and drinking and his family were too poor to help him.
Four-year-old Cam Ly has a beautiful face that shines with joy and hope. But it wasn’t always so.
Now this beautiful little girl can’t keep from smiling, and has a new future with endless possibilities.
Danila was born beautiful and perfect - except for a jagged tear in her upper lip that became the central focus of her life.
Though she’ll never remember the volunteer medical team that repaired her cleft lip, Davanyan’s beautiful smile will be a lifelong reminder.
David's mother worried he wouldn't live because he had trouble eating and drinking.
When Operation Smile came to Managua, Nicaragua, Delwin's mother Elizabeth knew it might be their only chance.
Demetria says that Operation Smile changed her life most by giving her the same opportunity as others -- enabling her to attend school.
Divith's mother knew his future would be painful, but felt helpless to save him.
When Eimy was born, she had a terrible cleft lip and cleft palate that went all the way up into both nostrils.
The medical care provided by Operation Smile volunteers has given Estella much more than a new smile. She now has a chance to lead a happy life and realise her fill potential!
This sweet baby girl was born with severe clefts in her lip and palate that made eating and drinking difficult.
Germayony's mother was devastated when she was born and so worried about her little girl's future
Hinabom was a quiet two year old who had travelled far on foot with her mother and her grandmother in search of a new smile. Now she and her entire family are smiling with joy!
Because of Ibrahim's deformity, he grew up with no friends and his parents suffered from terrible guilt.
Due to extreme poverty, Jempson never had any chance of getting surgery for the cleft lip he was born with.
From the day he was born with a severe cleft lip, Jenier was always sick. His parents worried about his health.
For 13 years, Jhuma lived with shame and humiliation as other children teased her cruelly.
John was a street child from Thika, a town near to Nairobi, where an Operation Smile Medical Project was taking place.
Jonatan was two years old when he embarked on the trip that would change his life forever. He only had one wish in his young life -- to have his cleft lip repaired.
Juan's mother Leida worried constantly about his future. So when he was just nine months old, she brought him to Operation Smile’s Care Centre in Bogota.
As Kupaw grew older, he became increasingly self-conscious about his facial deformity.
This precious girl endured ridicule and stares from others for 7 years.
Maiquin lived with his facial deformity for three years because his parents couldn’t afford the surgeries he desperately needed.
Maria Vitoria & Maria Vivian
The mother of these twins knew she had to do something when her baby girls were born. Both had severe cleft lips and cleft palates, marring their sweet faces.
Born with a double cleft in his upper lip, Milciades seemed destined for a sad, painful life. Luckily, his mother learned of the Operation Smile project in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Delivering hope to a whole family in China
Ming didn’t want to go to school because other children refused to let him play with them. But now with his radiant smile, he looks forward to starting school.
Three-year-old Miraya travelled 14 hours by bus with her mother to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, hoping to be selected for reconstructive surgery to correct her cleft lip.
When Molyny was just 29 days old, she was abandoned by her family.
Being part of the Karen Hilltribe in Myanmar had already given this sweet girl the lowest social status in a desperately poor country.
Narathon's parents had been to the hospital three times & were told there was nothing they could do. Then his mum heard that Operation Smile was coming to Mae Sot, Thailand.
Nhan was born with a cleft lip. His parents were distraught and worried that their son would be an outcast.
It took a village - and a world of compassion - to bring life-changing surgery to this Kenyan girl.
Called “rabbit” by the other children, 11-year-old Omar was sad and embarrassed about his cleft lip.
Now, Priccila can lead a normal life. And her mother, Karina, is so thankful to Operation Smile.
Born into severe poverty with a cleft lip and cleft palate, Rahul could have been doomed to suffer a lifetime of rejection, scorn and isolation.
Realyn was lucky she didn't have to grow up marred by the terrible facial deformity with which she was born.
Born into severe poverty with a cleft lip, Soline struggled constantly with shame and self-consciousness.
When Svetlana’s mum saw on TV that Operation Smile were coming to Novosibirsk, Russia, she knew this was her daughter’s chance.
Tatyana was born with cleft lip in Belarus, the country most affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
When Thailer’s mother first set eyes on her child, she was filled with happiness…and then shock.
Born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate, Thais' parents knew nothing of such facial deformities.
Thu was just a baby when she came to the Operation Smile medical project in Vung Tau, Vietnam with her mum.
Tuan’s parents are loving but poor -- too poor to afford the 45-minute surgery needed to fix their son’s cleft lip and save him from a lifetime of pain and isolation.
Today, Vera has a smile that makes her mother proud -- and a chance at a bright future.
Surgeons repaired Zacarias’ cleft lip. Two years later, when Operation Smile returned to Bolivia, Zacarias was selected again and received surgery for his cleft palate.
Transforming lives, building future leaders.