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Patient Story Thailand

Meet Our Patients: Thailand

Patient Story Thailand

Meet Our Patients: Thailand

Seeing children with the same cleft condition often brings peace and reassurance to families who discover Operation Smile. Meet Ake, Folksong and Beam, three patients who received free cleft surgery from Operation Smile Thailand and departed from the surgical program with newfound hope and brighter futures.

Meet Ake

On a day that is intended to bring a family joy, the birth of Akekapop “Ake” was met with unforeseen sadness.

Ake was born with a cleft condition. 

His parents were rice and cassava farmers. They neither expected his cleft lip nor knew how to treat it. Samai, Ake’s father, thought his son would be subject to painful bullying, fearing that Ake would develop an inferiority complex. With many misconceptions surrounding cleft in low-income countries, members of his family believed that a cleft condition was bad luck.

Yet, it wasn’t long before Ake’s family discovered Operation Smile Thailand.

Following their bus ride to reach the surgical program site, Ake and his family met more parents and children affected by cleft. These interactions helped make them feel more confident that Operation Smile would take care of their son. Prior to his surgery, Ake’s family rarely took photos of him. Today, Samai and his wife said they proudly take many photos of him and his new smile. 

Samai attributes his son’s happiness to the medical volunteers who devote their time and skills to changing the lives of children like his son so that they can be treated with kindness and accepted by their communities. 

When asked if he wanted to say anything to Operation Smile, Samai said, “I was very happy that Operation Smile Thailand had a [program] to provide free surgery. Earlier, I was very worried. Now, Ake got surgery and he’s very happy. He would like to say thanks to medical volunteers and the Operation Smile team who help create smiles for Thai kids.”

Meet Folksong

Although Folksong’s birth was an exciting time for his family, his cleft lip and palate created much concern for his parents.

They were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to afford surgery for his cleft condition. But despite their worries, Folksong’s mom and dad vowed to do everything possible to get their son proper treatment and give him a better life. Although his parents’ combined salaries as a technician for a television company and a seller at a local supermarket left them with limited leftover income, their perseverance motivated them to travel more than 60 miles to reach Operation Smile Thailand’s surgical program in Ubon Ratchathani. Upon arriving to the program site, they were surprised to see how many other children were born with the same condition as their son. 

Once Folksong emerged from his surgery, his mother cried tears of happiness and shared that she felt like her son would finally have the same opportunities as his peers. 

“I hope you continue to create new smiles for more children like Folksong,” she said. “Thank you to all volunteers, doctors and the Operation Smile team for brightening up Folksong’s life.”

Meet Beam

Beam’s cleft condition presented his mom and dad with an unforeseen challenge on top of being first-time parents. 

They had little access to knowledge about surgical treatment for cleft conditions, but they knew they needed to save as much of their income as possible if they hoped to one day repair Beam’s cleft lip and palate. His father made meager income at a construction site. Eager to bring in more income, his parents made the difficult decision to leave Beam with his grandparents while they traveled to another province with more income-earning opportunities. 

Then one day, they received news that would change all of their lives forever.

There was an upcoming Operation Smile surgical program taking place in Ubon Ratchathani, a city nearly two hours away from their home. The journey was long and taxing, but when they arrived, Beam’s parents exchanged a sigh of relief after being welcomed into the care of Operation Smile medical volunteers. Beam received his cleft surgery that week, and his life was transformed. 

Today, Beam’s parents focus on the joys of parenthood without worrying about their son’s ability to breathe, eat, speak or go to school. His mom remarked that she’s thrilled about the bright future her son has ahead of him. She hopes Beam will study to become a doctor.

In a “thank you” note to Operation Smile Thailand, she shared a message to those who helped change her son’s life:

“I’m Beam’s mom. I’m happy and proud of having great doctors who helps to heal Beam. I would like to say thank you to the medical volunteers. Wish you have this great mission forever to support other kids to have great opportunity like Beam. Thank you.”

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. Once again, we’re providing surgery and in-person care while taking stringent measures to keep families safe. Hope is on the horizon. And we remain focused on what cleft care makes possible for children, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live with confidence.


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.