Email

Beijing, China — Acclaimed author Mary Doria Russell describes what this incredible day means not just to Wang Li and her husband, but the entire Smile Train family.

Every morning, Wang Li gets up and looks in the mirror and knows that there are some problems that really can be solved, once and for all.

Be sure to watch the video commemorating Wang Li's wedding.

Every morning the news delivers you a fresh list of horribles. Conflict around the world. Environmental degradation. Threats and disasters, rancor and misery...

There's not a lot you can do about all that, but when you're a Smile Train donor, you get news like this: Wang Li Gets Married

This kind of news doesn't make headlines, but it should. In 1998, Wang Li was the recipient of the first Smile Train cleft repair surgery in China. Just look at her now!

The child of a poor family in a town far from China's prosperous coastal cities, Wang Li had already endured years of ridicule and rejection before Smile Train changed her life. School was an ordeal, so Wang Li hid at home, falling farther and farther behind her peers.

When she was nine, a passing stranger saw her mouth and asked her parents why they didn't get surgery for her. Wang Li's parents told him that they had no money for surgery. That stranger told the family about the dramatic before and after pictures he's seen in a Nanjing newspaper.

Those memorable, stunning photos caught his eye and showed him that clefts can be successfully repaired. He passed that information on to Wang Li's family, and told them than an international organization called Smile Train would soon be providing free cleft surgery at Nanjing's Gulou Hospital.

The result of that chance encounter?

Smile Train patient Wang Li before and after free cleft surgery

At 8:30 on January 26, 1998, Wang Li was a 9-year-old girl with a severe cleft palate and cleft lip. She was someone who believed that she "couldn't be as good as other people."

At 10:30 on January 26, 1998, Wang Li was a 9-year-old girl who looked in a mirror and saw a different person. She saw someone who "could go to school, and make friends, and have a normal life."

At 14, Wang Li was a well-spoken, confident, outgoing student who was working hard to catch up with her classmates. "Now I look like everyone else," she wrote to Smile Train in 2003. "I can do what every other kid does. I study very hard at school...Thank you for giving me a chance."

Wang Li graduated with good marks and has kept in touch with Smile Train.

Smile Train's first patient to receive free cleft surgery, Wang Li and her Husband

Today she is a beautiful 23-year-old woman. Recently, she wrote again to share her happiness with us, "I am married!! My husband is also a descendant of peasants. He is humble, honest, kindhearted, and giving. He is also working at a factory of producing electronic products. We love each other. Our personalities match too. Our hearts are filled with hope for our brighter future."

We love each other. What a simple sentence, but how profound.

Wang Li doesn't know the names of the strangers that contributed to Smile Train when it was just getting started in China. She doesn't know the name of the man who told her parents about the hospital that would provide free cleft surgeries. She doesn't know the names of the medical team that gave her a second life and a brand new hope at life in a matter of hours.

"I am truly grateful," Wang Li wrote this year, "Smile Train gave me courage and confidence. My husband and I and wish Smile Train to help more people born with clefts and make their smiles bloom and brighten their lives too!!"

In May, 2012, Smile Train announced a magnificent milestone: 750,000 surgeries.

Three quarters of a million new smiles, brightening the world.

Three quarters of a million children with repaired clefts who can go to school and make friends, who can grow up and find work and love, just as Wang Li did.

Each Smile Train surgery creates an inheritance of smiles and hope that will last generations. That's a lot of bang for 250 bucks!

Every morning, Wang Li gets up and looks in the mirror and knows that there are some problems that really can be solved, once and for all.

Mary Doria Russell supports Smile Train and donates to give kids free cleft lip and palate surgery

And that's what every donor to Smile Train knows, too. We might not see headlines about it, but this year we will know that we have changed more than 750,000 lives by solving one problem at a time, once and for all.

Together, we have made a difference in a world where that can be hard to do.

Mary Doria Russell, renowned author, and proud Smile Train donor.


What do you think of this story? Post your comments below.

See what others say about this story:

 


Real Stories. Real Heroes.

You Don’t Have to Hide Your Love Away

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Keren is a two and a half year-old who was born with a unilateral cleft lip. Her family had never heard of cleft lips or palates prior to her birth.

Theresia Gets a New Smile After 73 Years

Rutare, Rwanda – 73-year-old Theresia is an inspiration to her whole community. She recently had the courage to have free cleft surgery, having lived with an unrepaired cleft lip her entire life. Friends and family agree that the results are life-changing, and her new smile hardly leaves her face.

Journey of Smiles: Guatemala

Guatemala – Smile Train and Kaplan, the world leader in test prep, partnered together and provided four pre-health students a once in a lifetime experience. These students, pursuing careers in medicine and dentistry, were given the opportunity to visit local Smile Train partners and patients in Guatemala.

Journey of Smiles: Myanmar

Kachin, Myanmar – Follow Smile Train to one of the most isolated countries in the world as a new Smile Train partner hospital performs its first cleft surgeries.

Journey of Smiles: Egypt

Egypt – Documenting the best of cleft care in Egypt, Smile Train supporter Stefano Levi traveled to Egypt and returned with this photo update, capturing Smile Train’s dedicated partners and grateful patients.

Smile Train Russia: Photo Stories

Volgograd, Russia – Take a peek inside Smile Train partner hospital, Volgograd City Hospital #1 through these captivating photos. With over 20 years of experience, maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Irena Fomenko, has been instrumental in changing the lives of the Smile Train patients she helps, including Kirill, Stella, and Valentina.

Fly My Dream

Changsha, China – Smile Train patient He Yumei describes her determination during Smile Train-sponsored speech therapy treatment, provided for free by Smile Train. She was born with cleft lip and palate, which were repaired, but needed further help correcting her speech.

Baby Robson's Journey Of Smiles

Lilongwe, Malawi – Follow the journey of baby Robson and his parents as they travel to the city for the first time to receive Robson’s Smile Train surgery. This tale is told through the lens of Dr. Robin Wyatt’s camera, as he photographs the family from start to finish.

Hope, Dedication, Promise

Sulawesi, Indonesia – Follow a Smile Train favorite, Natsir, as he travels throughout the island of Sulawesi searching for cleft patients.

Surgeries and Smiles In Ghana

Kumasi, GhanaKatelyn Edwards, a student at the University of Tampa, recently traveled to Ghana to visit Smile Train partner hospital Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. Thanks to the generosity of Katelyn's community, she was also able to donate over $4,000 to the hospital’s Smile Train program

A Song In Her Heart

Mixquiahuala, Mexico – Smile Train patient Monserrat has overcome a lot in her young life, and has turned adversity into strength.

Mili's Second Chance

Kota, India – Mili's adoptive mother shares her story.

In Cameroon, the Surgeries Are the Easy Part

Douala, Cameroon – Program Manager Amber Webb writes about her experience to help expand best practices in patient outreach.

The Butterfly Effect: Natsir's Mission

Sulawesi, Indonesia – Natsir's simple act of kindness to a stranger resulted in his sons' free cleft surgeries. Now he volunteers his time to find other children with cleft.

Smile Pinki Update

Varanasi, India – In 2007, Pinki was a frightened little girl in need of free cleft repair surgery. Today, she is confident and loves to show off her smile.

A Smile Years In the Making

Xi'an, China – For some people, four years is a short period of time. For a surgeon, four years is the amount of time spent in medical school. For Smile Train, four years is just shy of a third of our existence. However, for a child with a cleft, four years can change his fate. Four years moved Hua Tai'an and his family from sadness and helplessness to happiness and hope.

A Smile At the Roof Of the World

Tibet, China – Soaring more than 4,500 meters above sea level in the highest region on earth, an incredibly brave little boy and his family received a modern-day miracle.

Smile Train International Scholars

New York, NY – Smile Train partner surgeons Dr. Lisa Hasibuan and Dr. Ataklitie Berhea recently received scholarships to travel to the United States for advanced training in Interdisciplinary cleft care. The award was sponsored through a collaboration of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, and Smile Train.

A Fresh Start for Taslia

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Khondoker and his wife Tasmin eagerly expected the birth of their third child, but were shocked when she was born with a cleft lip and palate and was diagnosed with dwarfism.

The Longest Journey

Veracruz, Mexico – Pedro and Griselda traveled with their children over 500km in 1 1/2 months to fix their son's cleft lip.

Alayna's Smile

Dover, Delaware – Smile Train supporter Kateri Lambrose shares the story of how she adopted her daughter Alayna, a former Smile Train patient.