Guest blogger Jennie Ellis tells the story of how Smile Train worked with CPI Haiti to save the life of a little girl living with an unrepaired cleft.
Saintelise was an invisible child in an unknown village in rural Haiti. She was reclusive, shy, and bound to her home, except for the necessary trips to the market for her mom. Saintelise spent the first 14 years of her life feeling like she was unlovable and an embarrassment. Her parents had never seen anyone with a cleft and were convinced they were being punished. Saintelise was the only one of her nine siblings who was never allowed to go to school. She did not have the opportunities of her brothers and sisters for one reason alone- her cleft lip and palate.
Our team, CPI Haiti, has spent six years in the village of Chauffard, where we have been dedicated to bettering the lives of the people who live there. It is a rural area where we started a school that has grown to 300 students in the span of four years. We have witnessed the impossible accomplished but when it came to Saintelise I had my doubts. I did not know where to begin to get her help.
Her mother recounted a story to me where she had heard that doctors were coming to Port au Prince to see patients, but they could only see the first ten who came. She woke up in the early morning, walked 20 miles down the mountain with Saintelise to get to the hospital only to find out she was the eleventh patient and was therefore turned away. She was crushed and blamed herself for years that her daughter missed what she saw as her one chance of getting help.
Back in the US I started showing pictures of Saintelise to everyone I knew to try to find help. Then a friend of ours told me about Smile Train. I sent Smile Train a picture and a plea for help. From there we were given an appointment date and our team in Haiti prepared for the seven hour journey to Smile Train’s partner hospital.
Because of the surgery, Saintelise now has confidence and has become an active little girl who likes to play with the other children and now attends church regularly. After her surgery Saintelise was also eager to start school in the fall. The community sees her surgery as nothing short of a miracle. Hope has spread far and wide because of the gift Smile Train gave a once invisible child in an unknown village in Haiti.