A Letter From Juan, a 10-Year-Old Patient from Chile

What local cleft treatment means to patients, in a patient’s own words
Close-up of Juan

My name is Juan. I am from Isla de Maipo, Chile. I live with my dad, my mom, my dogs, and a rabbit. And I was born with a cleft.

Juan before cleft surgery
Juan before cleft surgery

I don't remember anything about my first years with my cleft. All I know is that when I was little, my parents found Fundación Gantz in Santiago, where I have gone for free treatment thanks to Smile Train ever since. Every time I go to Fundación Gantz, my parents support me. I thank them for that because it is not easy to arrive on time for checkups. We have to get up at six in the morning to drive for more than an hour in traffic and be careful not to get hit by other cars

Juan in car
Juan in the car on the way to Fundación Gantz

Fundación Gantz has helped me a lot. First, they healed my cleft lip. Then, with orthodontic treatment, they managed to correct my bite. And later they will perform a jawbone surgery.

Today, when someone asks me what the little mark on my lip is, I tell them. It has never bothered me because it is so small that you can hardly see it.

Juan riding his bike with a Chilean flag in the background
Juan riding his bike

In the past, children bullied me at school. I started training in taekwondo at the age of four in a gym next to my kindergarten and it was just what I needed at that time. Learning karate has also helped me. It made me more confident — before, children hit me, and now they respect me.

I had a friend once who was not really such a friend, because he always hit me. I stayed friends with him because I was afraid of being alone, but he wasn't really my friend. Now, in karate, I have made several friends who, although they are not my age, I get along with well. Once, when I was in a ring, I was picked on by other kids and they stood up for me.

Juan holding a taekwondo trophy
Juan holding just one of his taekwondo trophies

I don't tell my friends much about my achievements, but when they walk into my bedroom, they are amazed by the trophies I have. Then I tell them my story.

I like the doctors who treat me, and I have a doctor who is my favorite — she has known me since I was born. I also like the doctor who performs my orthodontic treatment. I have a plate in my mouth for my orthodontics. It used to leave a bad taste in my mouth every time I removed it, and the doctor managed to make me no longer feel that sensation. I don't know how he did it. It's impressive.

Juan in a pool
Juan swimming

Once we met a family at Gantz who had forgotten an orthodontic appliance and the patient's mother was very sad. Since I no longer had to use it, my mom offered mine to her and in this way, we were able to help a family and make them happy.

As I said, I'm now doing orthodontic treatment to have good teeth. I notice the progress in my treatments, especially with the teeth that are now straight. I think that with all the treatment I'm doing, I'll have a beautiful smile.

Juan with his mother
Juan sharing a laugh with his mother

For my future, I wish to be healthy, because who knows what could happen? I hope COVID will end soon. Quarantine is too boring.

When I grow up, I would like to go to university and study mechanics. I would also like to be a truck driver because they are paid well and I find it fun to drive a loaded trailer. I would also like to have children.

Our Impact in Chile, as of May 2022


cleft surgeries sponsored since 2002


active partner surgeons


active partner hospitals

I want to tell the professionals at Gantz to keep it up because their work is super good, and they help a lot of people who need it.

To someone who is beginning with orthodontics I would tell him not to be afraid, that nothing bad will happen. Sometimes it could hurt a little, but in the end, they will have super nice teeth.

Juan with his parents
Juan with his parents

I also want to thank my parents for all the help they have given me throughout my treatment. Thanks to everything they do for me, I am a happy child.

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