A New Smile in the Philippines: Joseph’s Story


Joseph is 6 years old, he lives in a small hut in the slum area close to the highway in northern Cebu, Philippines. When Joseph was born with a cleft lip and palate, his parents were scared for his future. Due to the large hole in his palate Joseph had difficulty feeding and his speech did not develop normally. Joseph’s parents earn their living collecting and selling scrap metals and plastics. They may earn two and a half Australian dollars on a good day. Paying for surgery or treatment was not an option for them.
Upon starting school, Joseph was bullied by his peers for his appearance and speech impairment. He was called names and had stones thrown at him. His father explained to us that he could see that his son was suffering, and so Joseph was taken out of school and began helping his parents collect scrap. While looking for scrap materials, Joseph would find old toy cars that he loved to take apart and rebuild.

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One day someone told them about Operation Smile and an upcoming mission, and so Joseph and his father took a 4 hour bus ride to arrive at the mission for screening and surgery. His father was emotional when he told us how he waited for Joseph to come out of the Operating Theatre. “I was very nervous, but afterwards when the doctor called me and I saw Joseph I was very happy that he was so handsome”, he said. When Joseph was given a mirror, he stared at his own reflection for a long time. What an amazing sight to see; a new smile!

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After successful surgeries on both his cleft lip and palate, Joseph’s father is re-enrolling his son in school. Like fathers everywhere, he hopes that Joseph can study to have better opportunities that he himself had.
“Since Joseph likes to disassemble things and put them back together, maybe he can become an engineer!” he said. The smile on his father’s face is just as important to us as Joseph’s new smile. We are moved by the new hope it symbolises for his son’s future.

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Operation Smile Australia is honoured to have been able to serve Joseph and his family. Thank you to our supporters, donors, and the medical volunteers who made it possible.

"We strive for a world where no child suffers the risks and uncertainties of a facial deformity."

- Richard Lewandowski, Plastic Surgeon, Co-Founder Operation Smile Australia