Maria’s Bright Future, Philippines.
Maria knows what it is like to be different. To be laughed at, feared, chased and scorned. A life that no child should have to face. At just twelve years old Maria has spent most of her life hidden away from the world due to the torment she has received as a result of her cleft lip. “She covers her face when she goes out” her mother Maiissa confides. Maria comes from a small town in the Philippines and is the youngest of ten children- seven girls and three boys. Maria is the only sibling to be born with a cleft lip. She told us that she often wonders why she was the only one born with such a mark of shame.
Maria enjoys attending school and is in year six. However, Maria has suffered for twelve long years of bullying and social isolation, covering her face in public, learning not to speak or attract attention to herself, desperately trying to be invisible. The other children call her cleft, monster and vampire. Despite the daily torment, Maria told us “I like science, geography and studying Filipino… I want to become a teacher, so that I can help my Mama”. Maria also has another motive “I would like to help other children too”, she adds.
One day, someone told Maria and her family that Operation Smile was returning to the Philippines to provide children like Maria with free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries. Maiissa, Maria and five brothers and sisters, had to borrow over a thousand pesos (AUD $25) in order to travel two hours together by van to Cauayan City, where the mission was being held. Maiissa told us that she always prayed that Maria would one day be operated on. In the lead up Maiissa kept her hopes guarded, however, as Maria’s surgery day arrived, she was overwhelmed with emotion; “This is it. It’s happening today!” After twelve long years of suffering, Maria’s life was about to change forever. And it would only take 45 minutes.
After a successful operation to repair Maria’s cleft lip, her life of being tormented and hiding away from the world is over, she is now looking forward to a brighter future filled with new friends and a bright smile.
“I am happy because of Operation Smile. If there were no Operation Smile, then Maria would not be here. And we could not help her. Thank you,” Maiissa says. The impact of an Operation Smile medical mission impacts the life of not only the child, but also the family. With your support we are honoured and committed to helping children like Maria see a brighter future.