"CHANGING the world one smile at a time" -- never had these very words made an enormous impact on the life of a child with a cleft deformity than that of Marion Claver Flores and his family.

His parents, Raymond Flores and Lanie Samonte were blessed with three children, two of which were born with cleft deformities with the mother having been born with a cleft lip herself.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Never did they think that their son will benefit from a blessing such as that of a cleft lip operation -- a blessing that will change not just their son's life but also that of the whole family's in more ways than one.

Lani S. Flores, 25 years old, the mother was born with cleft lip and palate deformity. Her lip was operated on when she was three years old (1988) then her palate at age of 15 (2003). The family is blessed with three siblings and a six months old baby on the way. The eldest, Gideon Howell, was born with cleft lip and was operated at the age of eight months old. He is now five years old and a kindergarten scholar student of a religious congregation. Middle child is Marion Claver, also born with cleft lip and palate deformity. Marion is close to his father. The youngest is Althea, two years old.

The family has been living at Purok 4, Ilang-ilang St., Barangay Ula, Tugbok District since 2004. Their house (owned by Lani's relative) is made of nipa, bamboo and wood. The family uses "lampara" for their light and "Nawasa" water facility shared with the relative neighbor and a deep well.

The family uses wood in cooking their meals. Raymond used to work in several outlets and companies and is still looking for a stable job. Both husband and wife take care of their kids and their primary concern is family. They receive both monetary and goods support from Lani's sister and the Apostles of Jesus Crucified, a Fathers and Brothers Religious Congregation.

Raymond gives the receipts when the money is consumed. They also have a garden which they can harvest for their food.

The family seldom visits their barangay health center (a 15-20-minute walk) headed by a midwife.

Their health center offers only prenatal services and has limited medicines so they have to go to Mintal to seek a doctor's assistance.

Mode of transportation is a "habal-habal" or motorcycle. From the house, they have to take three rides going to Davao City (proper) which cost 70-80 pesos one way and about an hour's travel. There are no street lights which make it hard and dangerous to travel at night and their nearest neighbor is about 25 meters away.

Marion was scheduled to be operated twice in the 4th quarter of last year to other sponsoring organization but due to health conditions, (asthma) he was deferred. Lani's sister heard about a Cleft Lip Mission in partnership with Smile Train and Maharlika Charity Foundation Inc.

In January 2010. Fortunately, Marion qualified for the surgery as well as the mother. Lani was operated last Jan. 22, 2010 for her lip revision while Marion was operated last Jan. 25, 2010 for cheiloplasty.

The Maharlika Foundation visited them recently to check their progress. I share with you this wonderful news accompanied by photos. Visit the website http://www.maharlikafoundation.org for more information about their charity work and advocacy.

Postscript: The people behind the Foundation wishes to dedicate their works to those who believe in their mission, to the Smile Train and to Dr. Michelle Marie P. Aportadera (our "Our Smile Train Hero"), for having contributed unselfish service and charity to that noble profession as a surgeon of Maharlika Charity Foundation Inc.

Write to jojiealcantara@gmail.com or visit her website www.pbase.com/jojie_alcantara.