Quezon City, Philippines — Yesterday, Smile Train announced our 750,000th free cleft surgery since our founding in 1999. Jhoanna Galut was chosen to represent this amazing “smilestone.” This is her story.
As Jhoanna Galut began to approach her 6th birthday, she had little to celebrate. The 4th of 6 children born to a poor family living off $2 a day, Jhoanna suffered from a unilateral cleft lip as well as asthma. Her asthma turned out to be almost as much of a curse as her cleft lip.
Jhoanna’ asthma and very thin frame caused her to fail to pass the medical examination during a free cleft surgery camp organized by an army unit. The cancellation of her surgery at the camp, sent her family into despair. Things only got worse when she got older and local kids began to make fun of her cleft. Perhaps saddest of all, it wasn’t just school kids who made fun of Jhoanna — her mother frequently got into fights with her neighbors over Jhoanna’s cleft.
One day, Jhoanna’s mother brought her youngest child to the hospital for a check up and found literature about Smile Train’s free cleft surgery program at Philippine Band of Mercy. Her hope returned, and when they arrived home, they packed their backs immediately.
Jhoanna had grown strong enough to pass the medical examination and finally received free cleft lip surgery at the hands of Dr. Gilbert Esquejo of Philippine Band of Mercy. With her bright new smile, Jhoana is anxiously looking forward to school and hopes to one day become a teacher.