Meet our patients from Ho


Shine is a bright, happy 7-year-old. She’s often to be heard singing her favourite French song while drawing or taking care of her cats. Her mum, Patience, is so proud of her daughter, she said Shine is one of the top students in her class and she loves learning languages. Shine’s future is now bright and hopeful, in stark contrast to how it was before surgery.

When Shine was born, Patience was really worried about her daughter’s future. Shine was born with a cleft lip and palate in a village on the outskirts of Accra. After the birth, Patience immediately experienced the stigma that surrounds people with cleft conditions – suddenly her neighbours didn’t even want to be near her.

Thankfully, Patience was referred to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, where she learnt about Operation Smile and was excited to hear about the surgical programme in Ho. Shine was only 7 months old when she received her life-changing surgery. Since then, their lives have been transformed and the days of suffering and stigma are behind them.


Samuel’s big smile hides a past of bullying, teasing and loneliness. Samuel lived for 18 years with an unrepaired cleft lip. He spent years alone. Isolated and with no confidence, he lost hope in the future.

When he arrived at the surgical programme back in 2015, he felt huge relief. For the first time, he realised he was not the only one with a cleft. After hearing the news that he was on the surgical schedule, Samuel couldn’t contain his excitement. He knew his life would be changed forever after surgery.

Eight years since surgery and Samuel is a different person. He’s confident and happy, he’s finished school and is now married, with a son. Today Samuel loves going out and meeting people – whenever sees anyone with an untreated cleft, he shares his story and introduces them to Operation Smile, so their lives can also be transformed.


When Aliwu saw a photo of a baby with a cleft lip, she couldn’t believe she was that same little girl. Aliwu was born with a cleft lip and palate, just like her mum, and received free, safe surgery from Operation Smile when she was only one. As a result of her timely surgery, Aliwu has never suffered the painful bullying and rejection her mother Fadila went through growing up.

When Fadila arrived at Ho with Aliwu, she remembers that for the first time she felt she was not alone and that Operation Smile could really help her daughter. Surgery has brought so much confidence to Fadila, as she realises now that after Aliwu’s cleft has been repaired, her daughter will be able to go to school and enjoy her life, free from bullying and teasing.


When Elizabeth was born with a cleft lip, her father Ato was sad and terrified. He had never seen the condition before and he didn’t know what to do. Luckily, at the hospital where Elizabeth was born, Ato and his wife Juliana met with a doctor who introduced them to Operation Smile. Those first months weren’t easy for Ato and Juliana, as people in their community laughed at them, so they kept Elizabeth at home as much as they could.

When Elizabeth was 9 months old, they received the phone call that changed Elizabeth’s future. A surgical programme was coming soon, so Elizabeth could receive her new smile. Juliana and Elizabeth made the 16 hours bus trip to Ho, where after a full medical evaluation, she was cleared for surgery.

When Juliana and Elizabeth came back home, Ato wasn’t the only one waiting for them. Their community was so happy to see Elizabeth’s new smile, they went to church to celebrate and give thanks.

Elizabeth is now a happy, energetic 7-year-old. Thanks to her timely surgery, she has never experienced any bullying and teasing, and she has friends to play with. She loves going to school and dreams about becoming a doctor so that she can one day help others.


Looking at Isheala now, you’d never believe she was born with a cleft. She’s a beautiful 7- year-old, who smiles brightly. Isheala was born at home and her cleft lip was a shock for her family. Her older brother, David, still recalls that the family didn’t know what to do and rushed Isheala to the hospital. There, a midwife reassured them saying that surgery could repair her cleft lip and introduced them to Operation Smile.

Like many children with cleft conditions, Isheala was struggling with breastfeeding, so Operation Smile provided the nutrition supplements she needed to grow strong enough for her life-changing surgery.

Arriving at the programme site, Isheala, David and their mum saw all the other children with cleft conditions, and for the first time realised they were not alone. David felt relieved and knew that things would finally get better for the family.

When his little sister was called to go to the operating room, David felt sure she was in good hands and that everything would be fine. And, when they returned home after surgery, the whole community was delighted and came to see Isheala’s new smile.

Isheala is now at school and the family does their best to support her, so she can get the best education. She has lots of friends and really enjoys her time at school.

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