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A woman wearing a surgical cap and gown looks down at a hospital bed.

Ana and Darwin were shocked when their precious daughter, Zoe, was born with a cleft lip. Despite feeling overwhelmed with worry, they began learning everything they could about Zoe’s condition.

Even with the understanding that Ana didn’t cause this, she couldn’t help but feel guilty when neighbours questioned her. “Why was her daughter born like that,” they asked. “Didn’t you look after yourself properly during your pregnancy?”

Operation Smile Honduras was a great source of comfort for Ana and Darwin as they embarked on Zoe’s journey to a new smile. A parent’s love knows no bounds and there was no distance too great that would prevent them from ensuring Zoe had the best care. Before surgery, Ana and Zoe travelled hours to Operation Smile to receive care.

A mother holds her toddler daughter who is dressed in a hospital gown.
Ana holds her daughter, Zoe, in the pre-operative ward during an Operation Smile Honduras surgical program.

At Operation Smile, we believe health care should be accessible to everyone – and having to travel hours for cleft care isn’t equitable. We start with a child with a cleft condition, like Zoe. The child leads us to the community, and the need to strengthen local health systems.

We train professionals on the ground, building high quality local capability and ensuring that what we do lasts. We act as a force multiplier, inspiring volunteers, governments, corporations, and international aid organizations to join us.

Now, Zoe visits a local care centre just minutes from her home to receive her ongoing cleft care and support.

A man and his toddler daughter pose nose to nose with smiles on their faces.
Darwin holds Zoe and shares a sweet moment at an Operation Smile comprehensive care appointment.
From Ana’s Perspective

“When she was born”, Ana remembers, “The first thing the doctors told me was that I didn’t have to worry because my daughter was born healthy. Many children were born like that and it had a solution. Nowadays, children who had a cleft lip and palate would get operated on.”

Still, Ana would not be able to afford the surgery that would change her daughter’s life forever. So when she learned about Operation Smile from her doctor, she was excited. With a new sense of hope, she thought, “Not everything is lost.”

Give hope to a mother like Ana this Mother’s Day. Make your donation in honour of a loved one and we’ll send an e-card and special message on your behalf. Give in honour today.

As many babies with cleft conditions do, Zoe struggled to feed. Ana shares that when she tried to breastfeed, “She’d move away as if she were drowning with the breastmilk. She’d constantly cry.” This caused malnutrition. Ana was devastated when Zoe wasn’t strong enough to receive surgery right away. “I was very sad,” she said, because, as a mother, I yearned to see her operated on because I’d see many very beautiful children who’d already been operated on.”

A medical professional wearing surgical scrubs has her arm around a woman waiting by a hospital bed.
Operation Smile volunteer comforts Ana in the post-operative ward.

Thankfully, Operation Smile provides nutritional support to children like Zoe so that they can continue their journey to a new smile. She was provided with formula, diapers, and medicine when Zoe was ill. And during the third pre-operative evaluation, Zoe was cleared for surgery!

A young girl with a cleft lip smiling.
3-year-old Zoe before cleft lip surgery

Surgery came at an important developmental stage for Zoe. She had just begun noticing her facial difference. “Sometimes when she looks at herself in a mirror, she stares at her little face,” her mom says. “She touches it, but she’s never asked me. She covers that spot. “Other children noticed too which subjected sweet Zoe to discrimination, bullying, and isolation.

When Ana saw Zoe for the first time after surgery, she started crying. “I simultaneously had so many mixed emotions,” she shared. “Happiness, nostalgia, everything. I think her future is going to change for the better. Recently, when she saw her own little face for the first time, I noticed that she was thoughtful, like, ‘Is that me?'”

Ana is so grateful for Operation Smile Honduras, and the kindness of Canadians like you who made her daughter’s surgery and ongoing care possible.

At Operation Smile, we wish a happy Mother’s Day to all amazing caregivers like Ana who would go to the ends of the earth to give their child everything they need.

A mother looks at her sleeping daughter and rubs her head after surgery.
Ana sees Zoe’s new smile for the first time after surgery.

Donors and Volunteers made this story possible. Thank you.