Kioko Can Finally Leave the Family Farm

After 17 years of isolation, a smile set him free

Kioko’s large family lives on a farm that is remote even by the standards of rural Kenya. They never had much, but never lacked for anything they needed. Until Kioko was born with a cleft.

While his parents wanted desperately to help their newborn, they knew medical treatment was far beyond their financial reach. So they prayed for the strength to raise him right and for the world to accept him as he was. It was all they could do.

With constant attention and affection, they overcame the odds to help him grow into a healthy child. Kioko grew up happy, loving to help on the family farm and play with his siblings. He simply could not wait to start school and make new friends.

Kioko just before cleft surgery
Kioko before cleft surgery

When the first day of school finally arrived, the other children took one look at his different smile and ridiculed him without mercy. He came home that day traumatized and in tears. The next day was even worse, and after only a few months, his parents had no choice but to keep him home.

Kioko spent the rest of his childhood working the farm, far from the stares and giggling whispers of the world. On the few occasions he had to venture out, he covered his mouth or lowered his head to hide his face.

Then, one day in 2019, a neighbor told his parents that he heard an organization called Smile Train was offering free cleft surgeries from local Kenyan doctors at nearby Makueni County Hospital. The family left immediately. A short time later, after 17 years, Kioko finally received the smile he deserved.

Kioko smiles while leaning against a tree after cleft surgery
Today, Kioko is all smiles

Kioko used his new smile as a fresh start. Once his scars healed, he began the process of coming out of his shell. Though he can still be shy and reserved at times, he now walks around town with his friends by his side, his head held high, and his smile beaming bright.

Kioko smiling while holding a picture of himself before cleft surgery
Kioko smiling and holding a picture of himself before cleft surgery

Kioko knows he can never get back the years of education he lost, but he’s not focused on the past. He has his sights set squarely on becoming a driver so he can spend the rest of his days exploring the world out beyond the family farm.

Another child with a cleft like Kioko is born every three minutes. Help us transform their lives today.

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Our Impact in Kenya

as of December 2021


cleft surgeries sponsored since 2002


active partner surgeons


active partner hospitals