A Love Song for Ana Sofia, and All Children with Clefts

"An incomplete smile that completes me…"

Smile Train was founded on the belief that no one can treat patients better than the healthcare workers already living in their communities. That means that no two of our 1,100 partner hospitals across 75+ countries are exactly alike; each brings their own style, their own native beat to cleft care that no outside group could ever match. In this way, local children with clefts often become so much more than our partners’ patients. They become family.

Figuratively speaking, of course. Except for one patient, who changed everything for her doctor; for the entire cleft community of Oaxaca, Mexico; and, maybe, for other children with clefts around the world.

Dr. Flor de Maria Diaz Contreras was a dentist specializing in clefts at a Oaxaca children’s hospital when an abandoned, underweight baby with a cleft was brought into her office. Ana Sofia would need 19 days in the hospital to fill out a healthy weight, but Flor de Maria needed only a few hours to fall in love with her. Two months later, Ana Sofia officially became her youngest child.

Suddenly, her practice was deeply personal. Flor de Maria now saw Ana Sofia in every patient, and there were a lot of patients — and not nearly enough. So many children have clefts across the State of Oaxaca, and she knew so few of them were getting the support they needed to live and thrive. She and her older daughters — dentist Nora Patricia and speech therapist Flor — ached to care for all of them. They knew that they had the skills. They just didn’t have the money.

That’s when Flor de Maria discovered Smile Train. “Since that moment, all things changed,” she said.

”To talk about Fundación Contreras is to speak of a family.”
- Dr. Flor de Maria Contreras

So many children with clefts feel all alone. Like Ana Sofia, they often struggle to eat as newborns and are sometimes even abandoned by their birth families. Those who survive can struggle to stay healthy and, as they get older, face nonstop bullying and stigmatization for who they are, how they look, the way they talk.

And like Ana Sofia, when these children meet the Contrerases, they feel heard, respected, sheltered, loved. They, too, become part of the close-knit cleft family they are building in Oaxaca.

A few years ago, Flor found herself searching for just the right words she wanted to say to her little sister and to all her patients. They came to her clear and bright as Ana Sofia’s smile:

Yo Creo en Ti
I Believe in You

The phrase planted music in her mind that quickly sprouted a melody, then a lyric, then another… until it blossomed into an entire love song.

“Something that I can give to her, it’s a song,” she said. “I think it’s the most personal [thing] I can give her.”

“Yo Creo en Ti” struck a chord, and soon spread beyond Oaxaca to deliver hope, joy, and love to children with clefts around the world.

Including Ana Sofia. “I feel that the song helps children to have confidence in themselves,” she said.

Watch it for yourself above, and know that, if you are a child with a cleft, the Contreras family, everyone at Smile Train, and each one of our 2,100+ other medical partners around the world believes in you.

Help us give life, hope, music, and joy to children with clefts in 75+ countries.

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