120 get free cleft lip, palate surgery

FIVE-YEAR-OLD Nicole Barrientos has always been bullied in her neighborhood in Sitio Lusaran, Barangay Talamban in Cebu City ever since she knew how to walk and run.

Neighbors her age would often bully her because of her looks.

When she was born, Nicole had a complex cranial facial palate, which made her face looked disfigured.

Her mother, Rhea Clyn, said it was always her wish to improve Nicole’s situation.

But because of their limited finances, Rhea Clyn can only cry whenever her daughter is taunted by her neighbors.

“Maguol gyud ko. Dili nalang gyud siya makigduwa sa uban kay sugsugon ra siya. Sukad sauna, makigduwa ra siya sa iyang manghud ug malingaw ra nga siya ra usa,” she said.

Rhea Clyn hopes that her daughter’s situation will change after Operation Smile, a non-government group, committed to operate on her for free.

Dr. William Magee, Operation Smile founder and chief executive officer, told reporters in a press conference yesterday that Nicole is one of the 120 people whom they will provide free cleft palate and lip surgery.

But since Nicole’s condition is complicated, Rhea Clyn said her daughter will be brought by the Operation Smile team to Australia.

She hopes that Nicole can finally live normally like other children her age once they return.

Operation Smile has been conducting cleft palate and lip surgeries in the Visayas Community Medical Center since Monday.

Magee and around 63 volunteers from Operation Smile are in Cebu, with the help of the Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung Charitable Foundation, to help change the lives of children and adults with cleft lip and palate.

Also with them is Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist Duncan Bannatyne, who is providing financial assistance to the group.

Since they’ve been coming to Cebu, Magee said more than 5,000 children and adults have been assisted by Operation Smile. (JKV)
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