SMILE TRAIN: ALFRED ONANA: A SMILE HEALS A FAMILY
Ba’ana Onana of Cameroon feared the worst when her son Alfred was born with a cleft lip, as her nephew, who also was born with a cleft, had tragically passed away only months before.
Ba’ana was overjoyed that Alfred successfully made it through his first days, but her joy was soon eclipsed by allegations from her husband’s family.
Ba’ana was accused of adultery by her sister-in-law Agnes — she said that this was the only explanation for how something like this could happen to good people, like her family. When Agnes demanded a paternity test,. Alfred’s father resolutely stood by his wife and dismissed the idea.
The allegations did not stop at infidelity — Agnes saw her brother’s unwavering allegiance to his wife as evidence that she was using witchcraft to turn her brother against the family. Alfred’s father contested the accusation of witchcraft and pleaded with his sister to love Alfred just as much as his other children.
hen Alfred’s father passed away, Agnes became the head of the family. Thankfully, her brother’s pleas to accept Alfred and Ba’ana had softened her over the course of several years, and the family finally accepted them.
In 2016, Alfred learned that Smile Train’s local partner in Yaoundé, WeCCARE Foundation, provided year-round cleft lip surgery. Once Alfred was approved for free cleft lip surgery, the entire family went with him to the hospital.
After years of heartache and pain, Ba’ana remembers the time following Alfred’s surgery as some of the best moments of her life, “When I saw Alfred after the surgery, the joy was great. I didn’t go to work on the farm for a week and we just enjoyed our happiness. We danced, we bought drinks for everyone. Many people came to the house with gifts and congratulated me for not giving up hope for my son.”
Ba’ana also had a message of gratitude for Smile Train’s supporters, “Without your contributions and without these surgeries, the lives of these children would be unbearable — your contributions give them life.”