Kelvin Hopes to Bring Smiles All Throughout Ghana
And he has the plan to make it happen
Kelvin is a dentist in Ghana with big goals and the drive to achieve them. He hopes to inspire cleft-affected children and their parents all around the world. Here’s his story in his own words.
I’m the oldest of six. All five of my siblings are girls, and I’m the only one born with a cleft. In fact, when I was a child, I was the only person I knew who was born with a cleft. I had to get used to people coming up and asking questions. They would always say, “What happened to your face?” or “Why do you talk like that?” Even as I got older, children were always the ones who would ask the most questions. They’re curious to know why you’re different and aren’t nervous to ask.
Some people didn’t bother with questions, though. A lot of children would avoid me and mock me. Rejection was hard to deal with. Being accepted was a challenge.
But my parents worked to build my self-confidence. They knew people would look at me differently and mock me, and they never wanted anyone to bring me down. My family’s support was the key to my strength. They all worked together to lift me up. My parents never had an issue leaving work to take me to the clinic and my sisters were always protecting me from bullies. Everyone saved and sacrificed to make sure I had the cleft surgeries I needed.
My mother, in particular, never stopped championing me. She made me believe in myself. She made me understand that I could go anywhere and become anything I wanted. I dreamed of going to university and becoming a doctor or a professor. She never doubted that I could do it.
Even when my treatment would take me out of school, I refused to let it hold me back academically. One of my earliest memories is when I was getting cleft palate surgery during the exam period at my school. I couldn’t attend in person, so the school brought my exam papers to the hospital. I had three more surgeries after that – two cleft lip surgeries and one bone grafting procedure – and I always kept my grades up.
Science was always my favorite subject, and with my personal experience going in and out of hospitals, studying medicine was a natural choice. I’m a dentist now, but my career won’t end here. Smile Train has opened so many doors for me. Even though I had completed my surgeries by the time I found them, they offered me free speech therapy which changed everything. It’s much easier to communicate with my coworkers and patients now, and I feel well set up for the future. I want to become a lecturer at a university. I love teaching and researching, and this path will give me even more knowledge to complete my ultimate goal: becoming a cleft surgeon.
I want to become a cleft surgeon to encourage families like mine. When I was younger, I didn’t have anyone with a cleft to look up to. I could be that figure for someone. When I tell parents my story, I see them relax. Their minds open, and suddenly they see their child growing up to achieve great things. As a surgeon, I want to spread my story even further. Hearing success stories is the kind of moral support people need. I want cleft-affected children and their families to know that their difficult beginnings are just the first steps to a successful future. I want to make an impact.
If I met a family with a cleft-affected child right now, I would tell them not to believe in any superstitions about clefts that they may hear. Clefts are not a curse or punishment from angry gods. They are treatable. You don’t need to fear for your child’s future because, with proper care and family support, they’ll grow up to have a life just like anyone else. I’m living proof of that.
You could help make a child’s dreams come true.