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In Rwanda, a mother's quest to help her son
Judith’s trials in life started long before she gave birth to her son. She was an orphan and struggled to find the means to feed herself. She had her son, Alejandro, at 17 years old, and with no help, she felt painfully alone.
Alejandro was born with a cleft lip. When her son’s father learned of his birth defect, he refused to accept or even see the newborn. The clinic where Judith gave birth told her it was possible to repair Alejandro’s lip with surgery, but she would need to take care of her son and make sure he was feeding properly and gaining healthy weight.
Initially, Judith thought her son would never be able to get that surgery, she didn’t have the money to provide anything like that. But the clinic workers told her about Operation Smile, which set Judith on a mission to help her son no matter what.
But that determination quickly faded upon returning home after the birth Judith’s neighbors told her Alejandro’s cleft lip was all her fault. To make her life even more difficult, her landlord threw her out, saying her son was cursed. Judith moved to a different village hoping that her life might begin to improve and to wait for Alejandro to be old enough to have his surgery to repair his lip.
Ten months later Judith received the news she had been waiting for – an Operation Smile medical team was coming to a nearby hospital for a medical mission and the organization would even help reimburse the cost of her bus ticket. This was the first step in turning both hers and her son’s life around, she thought.
Once she arrived at the hospital, Judith met and chatted with other mothers she began to feel less alone. She didn’t know so many other families were experiencing the same hardships she was. She was so happy when Alejandro was selected for surgery.
Judith hoped when she returned to her village after Alejandro’s surgery, her neighbors would now see how handsome Alejandro was and know that they were wrong to make so many nasty comments about him.
Judith dreams that one day Alejandro will become a plastic surgeon and help to change other children’s lives. She told the medical team that she will go back home and tell everyone about Operation Smile. If she sees another other give birth to a child with a cleft lip, she will help them and tell them there is help.