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Monil Shah's Story

Monil Shah: 'Be the hero'

Monil Shah, Student Volunteer

Let’s talk about the feeling your parents got as soon as you opened your eyes for the first time. It was the beginning of a roller coaster ride called life. How does it feel? Isn’t it just simply amazing?

Tears stream down a mother’s face as she sees her baby for the first time, wrapped ever so snuggly in a blanket. Tiny fingers, tiny toes, tiny hands. The first time a parent holds their child is often described as one of the happiest moments of life. 

Let’s talk about life now. Is it fair? No. Not at all.

Life is especially unfair for the mother who sees her child for the first time and notices something is wrong. Her child was born with a facial deformity. Her heart goes numb, she cries, she’s in shock, speechless. 

That’s what happened to my mother. Fortunately, I was able to receive surgery at a young age at an independent hospital. But for so many others, surgery is simply out of reach. Unaffordable, unattainable.

Then comes an organization, Operation Smile, that aims to reach all the children born with a cleft condition and spread smiles here across India and the world. All they need is a little bit of help from us. We are the lucky ones, we have to ignite change, raise awareness, raise funds and help these families who would otherwise not get the help they need.

Imagine the pain and suffering of a child born with a facial deformity who has not had surgery. They’re made fun of. They’re bullied. And they can’t get away from the points and stares whenever they leave home. I know, some people still stare at my scar. But I’m one of the lucky ones.

Those who are still living with a cleft need us. They need Operation Smile, they need basic humanity, basic healthcare. So get out there and be the change. We need you, we need the change that’s only possible with your help. At the end of the day, when you see a patient smiling for the first time after surgery, that upward curve will warm your heart and remind you why we’re here.

Be the change. We need heroes to inspire more heroes.

Monil Shah is a student volunteer in India. He was born with a cleft and received early surgical care. His passion for Operation Smile has inspired him to not only volunteer, but to encourage friends and family to donate every year for his birthday. He wrote this letter to his classmates in school after visiting the Guwahati Comprehensive Cleft Care Center in Guwahati, India.