One of the founding core values of Mekong Hope Surgical Fund was that people with clefts are beautiful, just as they are. In society, so many of the friends we have helped have been considered as outcasts and understandably are extremely self-conscious. They often don’t speak (if they have a cleft palate in particular) and will hide their faces or mouths with scarves or their hands.
When we get to know a new person needing a cleft repair, we intentionally spend time together talking together, sharing a meal together and we usually try to take a really lovely photo of them which we print out for them to keep. We aim to communicate that they are beautiful just as they are. I think the smiles below reflect the reality of this beautiful process.
As I’ve worked with people with clefts for over 20 years now, I realise we need to educate people to not focus just on what is missing – a small part of their lip, but to see all the beauty and wonder in their eyes, in their face, in who they are as human beings.
To smile with hope is powerful. I meet new people with clefts with great hope in my heart, which makes me smile. As they are seen, accepted, and cared for, I see them filled with hope, I see them smile. And when they receive their cleft repair, they smile with hope at a future that feels a little brighter. I’m smiling now.