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When Maria Belen was born in Bolivia with a cleft lip and cleft palate, her mother was surprised. She didn’t know anything about cleft conditions.

As a single mother and teacher, she was confused and scared for her daughter’s future.

“I called Operation Smile and was told that there would be a surgical program happening the next month. I felt hopeful for the first time.”

– Maria Teresa

At just a month and a half old, Maria Belen was too young for surgery and had difficulties breastfeeding until our dental volunteers fitted her with an obturator (feeding plate) to ensure she would get the nutrients she needed to thrive. She also received nutrition consultations and nutritious food to maintain her good health for surgery.

To Maria Teresa’s relief, her daughter was soon scheduled for her first cleft lip surgery! She continued to receive comprehensive care until she was ready for her cleft palate surgery in June 2022. Today, she beams with pride and excitement whenever a camera is nearby.

Partners and volunteers made this story possible. Thank you.