“This life changing procedure of baby Mao is truly such a blessing to their family.”
Every day around the world, 540 babies are born with a cleft, a serious health condition with potentially life-threatening complications such as difficulty in eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking.
Seeking to address this, the organization Smile Train provides comprehensive services to individuals born with a cleft and their families. Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Smile Train continued to provide free cleft surgery and care for those in need.
This includes baby Mao, whose mother Novalyn initially lost hope. During his first check-up at another organization, the child was underweight and could not receive surgery. Shortly after, the pandemic started, causing further delays to receiving treatment.
After more than a year, Novalyn was referred to Smile Train by Cristalle Belo Pitt, Tim Yap, and Javi Martinez. Mao received surgery for his cleft lip last September 2021.
“This life changing procedure of baby Mao is truly such a blessing to their family, and we can’t thank Smile Train enough for making this dream a reality. Can’t wait to see the results after baby Mao has healed,” Belo says on her Instagram post.
In 2019, Pitt met baby Mao during an outreach activity of the Belo Medical Group. The child was not allowed to receive surgery then as he was not strong enough at the time.
Chef Xavier Btesh, who was there to support the outreach activities, also took an interest in Baby Mao’s case, helping to ensure he goes to his pediatric check-ups and gets his vitamins to be healthy enough for his eventual surgery through Smile Train.
“Para sa mga magulang, huwag pong mawalan ng pag-asa dahil nandyan ang Smile Train laging naka suporta para sa atin at para sa mga anak nating may cleft,” Novalyn says. “Pero hangga’t maari, bilang isang magulang, bilang isang nanay, isa sa mga responsibilidad natin na alagaan ang sarili natin lalo na pag tayo ay mayroong anak na may cleft.”
“Through Smile Train’s sustainable model of partnering with local hospitals and empowering local medical professionals, we are able to provide cleft care throughout the year,” Kimmy C. Flaviano, Smile Train vice president, South East Asia. “This model has allowed us to continue to carefully provide safe, quality and timely surgeries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Aside from cleft surgeries, Smile Train has provided over 3,000 telehealth sessions for speech therapy and nutrition counselling during the pandemic. Smile Train also launched the first-ever Filipino language mobile speech app designed for those born with a cleft to continue learning at home.
Despite the challenges of the current times, Smile Train remains committed to its vision of a world where everyone has access to safe and comprehensive cleft care and can live a full and healthy life. In just over 20 years, Smile Train has already supported over 65,000 cleft surgeries in the Philippines.
For more information about Smile Train’s global efforts and to donate, please visit smiletrain.org.
Photo from @cristallebelo on IG