Nairobi, Kenya — When Dr. Sylvia Noah met Elphas Sifuna, she met a boy who hid behind an over-sized hat and a large, brown trench coat with a popped collar to cover his mouth. As Dr. Noah spoke to his guardian, Elphas quietly stared at the floor trying not to be noticed. He refused to take off his hat.
As the screening progressed, Elphas whispered a question: he wanted to know if his cleft lip would be repaired and if he would be allowed to start school. Dr. Noah soon learned that Elphas “was a loner and did not have any friends. He had not started school because of his cleft lip. He was a shy boy who would not look you in the eye or talk comfortably unless he had his hat on.”
Luckily, a social worker found him and 11 other children with cleft and arranged for them to be screened for cleft surgery at Smile Train partner hospital Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital. The morning after his screening, Elphas received free cleft lip surgery and awoke from anesthesia a new child.
When he looked at himself in the mirror he was so pleased he could not help smiling. He came to the clinic before travelling home, without his hat or coat on and told me he was going to school. He had a sparkle in his eye, a bounce in his step and courage to face the world.”
—Dr. Sylvia Noah
Thanks to a network of compassionate people, most of whom he will never know, Elphas has been given a new chance at a normal life. By all accounts, he is determined to make the most of this gift.