Shandong Province, China –
I once read a saying in a magazine: defective children are angels from Heaven. Because God favors them too much, signs are made on their body so that they can be found at any time.”
– Smile Train Patient, Li Dungang
Li Dungang received Smile Train surgery on June 12, 2006 at Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University Medical College: a secondary cleft lip surgery at the age of 23. A hardworking student, from a family of poor, rural farmers, Li Dungang was lucky that his parents were able to save enough money to provide him with his primary cleft lip surgery as a child. However, as he grew older, his face changed and the scarring on his lip became more visible, leading to taunting and humiliation. Li Dungang found comfort in his studies, determined to forge his own path,
I knew that as far as a rural child was concerned, to do well in school was the only way to notch up a success…I knew that I had to make a greater effort than others if I wanted to go to college: it was a common occurrence to get up to study at two or three o’clock in the morning. Only by this way could I change my destiny.”
All of the studying paid off and Li Dungang was accepted into college. He struggled to pay his way through school living primarily off of a month’s supply of rice pancakes that his mother would make for him on his routine visits home. As he celebrated his acceptance into China University of Political Science and Law, tragedy struck and his mother fell seriously ill requiring him to send what little money he earned on the side back to his parents for her medical bills rather than towards his education. Li Dungang returned home to visit his sick mother and visited our Smile Train partner once more to follow up on his previous surgery.
While he was there, he explained his situation and how he feared he would have to drop out of school in order to help his parents through the even more difficult times. The staff introduced him to the new Smile Grant program and he received a small grant that he could use to help his family while he returned to school. Smile Train staff also nominated him for a scholarship through the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation. He was awarded the scholarship to cover the rest of his education and graduated with a degree in law. With the guidance of Smile Train Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Regional Programs Dr. Shell Xue, Li Dungang was able to secure a job at a Shandong Province Court where he is now thriving and taking every opportunity to help those in need.
In my life, I try to help people around me who are in trouble. I smile at strangers as much as possible, it brings me and them a sun-like warmness and sedateness. Life is a mirror, when you smile in front of it, it will also smile and the same for when you cry. It all depends on your attitude towards life.”