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Meet Our Patients

Meet Our Patients

Operation Smile has provided care to hundreds of thousands of patients since our founding in 1982. Here are a few stories from our work around the world.

Dilan, Before Surgery
Dilan and his mom, after surgery.
Dilan, After Surgery


When his mother, Sandy, realized Dilan was born with a cleft lip, she was heartbroken.

“I started crying. I was sad,” she said. “I spent the whole night wondering why he was born like that.”

After hearing about Operation Smile, Sandy immediately scheduled an appointment. Twice, Dilan was not able to receive surgery because he didn't pass his medical evaluation. Then, the pandemic began, but Sandy didn’t give up hope. Soon after, Dilan was finally scheduled for surgery.

“If I hadn’t found Operation Smile, I don’t know what I would have done,” Sandy said.

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During his third attempt at surgery, Dilan smiles at the camera wearing a red and white hooded sweatshirt.
Nezifa Sherab, after


At 4 years old, Nazifa had spent most of her life inside her family's home.

No one in her family had ever seen a cleft condition before. They did not know what caused Nazifa to be born like this. But then, the family learned of Operation Smile.

Since her last surgery, Nazifa has made many friends and spends most of her days playing outside the walls of her home. Now that she no longer has to worry about being teased or bullied, Nazifa is very eager to go to school with the other children.

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Three-year-old Karla shares her beautiful new smiles 15 months after her cleft lip surgery. Karla is outside wearing pigtails in her hair and a white shirt as she stands in front of wall of greenery. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Ángel and his wife, Julieta, were three months into their pregnancy and filled with joy when they were informed their daughter would be born with a cleft condition. Ángel felt pain and anger for Karla's condition, but it didn't compare to a father's love.

Like other children born with cleft lip and cleft palate, Karla had difficulty eating and needed to be fed with a syringe for the first year of her life. Ángel couldn't bear to see his daughter continue suffering and would not stop until he found her the care she needed. After numerous obstacles and years of feeling hopeless, Ángel learned about Operation Smile Mexico and was relieved to hear about the free surgery and care for children like Karla.

After his daughter’s cleft lip surgery, Ángel could not look away from his daughter’s new smile.

“The feelings I had when I saw her, with the surgery done, I cried inside. I was happy,” he said.

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Karla, 3 years old, gets a big kiss from her dad, Angel, 15 months after she received cleft surgery from Operation Smile Mexico.
Janat, before surgery
Janat and her mom, before surgery
Janat, smiling before surgery


Janat was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. For her mom, Fatima, feeding her daughter became impossible.

“I was afraid that I was going to lose her,” Fatima said. “She was suffocating, and the milk would come out of her nose. She can’t finish a bottle.”

As Janat became more malnourished with every passing day, Fatima and her husband, Youssef, feared for their daughter's life, but they were determined to get Janat the care she needed.

When they brought Janat to our team in Morocco, a group of volunteer dentists sprang into action to find a solution. They created a custom feeding plate to fit Janat's cleft palate. This would help Janat feed properly and get her to a healthy weight to receive her life-changing surgery.

Two years after we met Janat as an infant, she had grown strong enough to receive safe cleft surgery. Today, she continues to receive care from Operation Smile Morocco.

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Janat, before surgery
One year after his cleft lip surgery, Pedro smiles proudly in front of his house in Uribia, Colombia. Photo: Camilo Zapata Fonnegra.


Pedro is a 7-year-old boy whose family escaped violence and chaos from their home country, Venezuela, to live in a refugee community in Colombia. Born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, Pedro frequently became frustrated because it was difficult for him to communicate with his peers. His mother, Mareblis, was determined to find help for Pedro. Then she found Operation Smile Colombia.

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Amid crises, Pedro receives life-changing surgery and care in Colombia


It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.