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Press Release January 20, 2023

Operation Smile Celebrates International Day of Acceptance with Patient Pedro from Venezuela

Press Release January 20, 2023

Operation Smile Celebrates International Day of Acceptance with Patient Pedro from Venezuela

Working with patients with cleft conditions means meeting individuals who have been unfairly bullied for their appearance. Fortunately, cleft surgery often gives these individuals a new outlook on life. This International Day of Acceptance, we celebrate Pedro, a brave patient who demonstrates the importance of being accepting of others.


International Day of Acceptance is observed every year on January 20 and is a day to remind us of the importance of being accepting, especially in the circumstance of accepting one’s disability or physical difference. Every human has opinions, interests, rights, and goals and everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves without the hindrance of a disability or a difference. Today, global surgical nonprofit Operation Smile is active in over 35 countries helping families around the world feel accepted in their communities. In recognition of International Day of Acceptance, Operation Smile is highlighting a story about one of its most joyful and courageous patients, Pedro.

In 2019, 7-year-old Pedro and his family arrived at the April Third refugee camp in Uribia, Colombia along with hundreds of other displaced Venezuelans who were fleeing from the political and economic crisis consuming their home country. Having a child with a cleft condition and experiencing the increasingly fraught conditions in Venezuela, Pedro’s mother Marbelis was concerned she would never be able to get treatment for her son. Marbelis had attempted to work with other surgical nonprofit organizations in Venezuela, but Pedro’s cleft repair surgery never came to fruition.

Within weeks of their arrival in Colombia, local health care representatives identified Pedro’s need for cleft care. While at April Third, Marbelis was informed about the resources available at Operation Smile Colombia. The possibility of a cleft repair surgery was finally in sight for Pedro.

Marbelis said that Pedro was fortunate to avoid significant health problems with his cleft condition, but the physical expression of his condition made him subject to bullying and teasing by former classmates in Venezuela. Pedro was also frustrated with his inability to speak clearly and with others who had trouble understanding him. Today, Pedro is completely healed from his cleft repair surgery with Operation Smile and continues to receive speech therapy at Operation Smile comprehensive care centers.

Pedro and his family are part of Operation Smile’s Transcending Borders initiative which allows families seeking cleft care to do so regardless of their immigration statuses. Through this program, Operation Smile provides cleft surgery and comprehensive care programs, strengthens health systems through capacity-building programs, and pursues partnerships and advocacy to decrease barriers to care.

While Operation Smile brings cleft care to under-resourced communities and helps children grow healthier with speech therapy, dentistry, orthodontics, and nutrition services, the organization cannot prevent patients from being teased or discriminated against prior to surgical intervention. Through sharing patient stories and bringing attention to cleft conditions, Operation Smile can shed a light on those with physical differences and celebrate their courage on this International Day of Acceptance.

Read Pedro’s full story here:

About Operation Smile

Operation Smile is a global nonprofit specializing in expert cleft surgery and care. Over the last 40 years, we have provided medical expertise, research, and care through our dedicated staff and medical and student volunteers around the world, working alongside local governments, nonprofits, and health systems, and supported by our generous donors. Learn more at or by following @operationsmile on social media.



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.