A Smile for All Seasons

Smile Train patient Erica and her Mom celebrate a year after her surgery

Southern Mindanao, Philippines
Erica Palomo was born on October 14th, 2009. Her mother Ana and her father Ramon were overjoyed at the birth of their little girl, but their joy quickly turned into fear once they saw her face. Little Erica was born with a severe cleft lip.

Ana and Ramon could not understand why their daughter was born this way, as they had never seen anyone with a cleft in their poor village. Their hearts were broken knowing that they would not be able to provide Erica with the surgery she so desperately needed. Ana was unemployed and Ramon was lucky to get occasional work in construction. With no source of income and a newborn in tow, Ana and Ramon were forced to move their young family in with Ana’s parents and resign themselves to the fact that their precious baby would never be helped. Shortly thereafter, unable to bear the stigma of having a child with a cleft, Ramon left the family.

Time went by, but Ana silently held out a small bit of hope that one day she would be able to help Erica live a normal life. That small bit of hope went a long way with a big twist of fate. A new neighbor that worked at a nearby hospital moved next door to Ana and her family. The neighbor immediately noticed Erica’s cleft and told Ana about the hospital’s partnership with Smile Train. Erica would be able to receive cleft surgery, free of charge. Without hesitation, Ana brought her daughter to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for evaluation and to schedule her surgery. The long wait for help was finally over.

Smile Train patient Erica Palomo before and after free cleft lip surgery

This Christmas, more than a year after her surgery, 3-year-old Erica will happily celebrate her smile with her family. Erica is not only beautiful, but her confidence has been boosted. She now loves playing with other children, instead of shyly hiding in a corner. Ana explained sweetly,

After the surgery you can catch Erica glancing at herself in the mirror and touching her upper lips while smiling.”

Ana and her family are so grateful during this holiday season and wish that Smile Train can continue to share the same miracle with other children with clefts around the world. Free cleft surgery is the best gift these children can receive.

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