The first six years of Jhoanna Galut’s life was similar to many other children living with untreated clefts in the developing world. Jhoanna was frequently ill because of her inability to eat, she was teased and tormented by other children so she avoided going to school, and sadly her large family was unable to afford cleft surgery for her on an income of $2 a day.

But in March of 2012, Jhoanna’s life changed forever when she received free cleft surgery and coincidentally became Smile Train’s 750,000th new smile recipient.

Today, Jhoanna is a healthy and happy 9-year-old honor student. Jhoanna says that she used to be afraid to go to school because of bullying, but now, she loves school. She spends hours every day practicing reading and writing so that she can achieve her dream of being an elementary school teacher.

Jhoanna’s mother Marilyn says that Jhoanna has changed a lot since her surgery. “She used to spend her days alone inside the house trying to avoid people, but now she is always outside playing with her sisters and new friends.”

Marilyn says that that the most drastic difference since Jhoanna’s surgery is her increased confidence. “Her speech has improved dramatically and now she has the confidence to communicate in school and go out of the house and meet new friends. She combs her hair and looks at herself in the mirror more often because she likes herself more.”

When Jhoanna recently met Percy Benedictos, the Executive Director of Smile Train partner hospital Philippine Band of Mercy, she said, “Thank you for everything — I used to be teased and no one would play with me but now my sister and friends say that I am beautiful inside and out.”

Photo Credit: 
Smile Train