After living 34 years with an unrepaired cleft condition, Magret arrived at our 2018 surgical program in Blantyre, Malawi, feeling hopeful and unafraid.
Photo: Jasmin Shah.

When Magret was born, her parents received no explanation about her cleft condition or where to seek help.

Severe bullying and ostracization by her community contributed to the loneliness Magret felt while growing up.

Instead of succumbing to her circumstances, Magret remained optimistic, radiating her positivity and hope to family and friends around her.

Living in a country where access and awareness of cleft care opportunities are extremely limited, Magret never knew treatment was possible. But even if she had been made aware of a surgical solution, affording the cost of an operation would have been out of her reach.

Through her work on the farm, Magret cultivates only enough food to meet her family’s needs. Her husband, Laston, moved to South Africa with hopes of finding a job that could provide his family supplementary income.

Around the world, there are millions of people like Magret who endure years of needless suffering because of the barriers preventing them from accessing care earlier in their lives.

Unable to afford travel to the nearest hospital, let alone the cost of an operation, many people living in low-income countries like Malawi also face a lack of skilled surgeons required to meet patient demands.

These obstacles motivate Operation Smile to find innovative ways to extend its impact and reach more patients. 

After living three decades with a cleft lip, Magret encountered an opportunity that she always believed was impossible.

A local community leader told her that Operation Smile Malawi mobilized teams of medical professionals capable of giving her a new smile through cleft surgery at no cost to her.

Joined by her sister, Magret immediately traveled to the upcoming surgical program taking place in Blantyre. Volunteers performed a comprehensive health evaluation and deemed Magret healthy enough to be placed on the surgical schedule.

Bravely waiting to receive her long-overdue surgery, Magret’s mind began to drift toward the parents she saw at the mission. As a mother, she sympathized with the mothers and fathers who’d watched their own children live with and endure the same pain and isolation she experienced. 

She also felt overjoyed that those parents had found Operation Smile because their kids now had the chance to receive the cleft surgery that eluded Magret her entire life. 

After her successful surgery, Magret eagerly sent a picture of her new smile to her husband. Photo: Jasmin Shah.

Magret, today. Photo: Jasmin Shah.

Filled with joy after surgery, Magret called her family to tell them about her transformation and sent a photo to Laston. 

Her children were thrilled to see her new smile after Magret returned home. Together, they tore apart all of Magret’s pre-surgery photos. 

“I am so happy now,” she said. “Thank you for what you did for me. Please continue to help others.”

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