Still, Wesley Believed in Himself

Even when the world seemed against him, Wesley clung to hope for his future

Wesley smiling, holding a picture of himself before cleft surgery

Wesley Langat shocked his family when he was born with a cleft. No one in his family had ever seen one before.

As a child he stayed inside, watching his three siblings play with friends and go to school. He dreamed of the day it would be his turn to start school and finally join in on the fun.

When the day came at last, Wesley jumped out of bed, gulped down his breakfast, ran out the door, and crashed headfirst into the pointing fingers of his peers. The children he had dreamed of seeing for so long couldn’t see him at all; they only saw his cleft. And each laugh, stare, and taunting comment they hurled at him burst his hopes like a sharpened rock to a balloon.

Still, he tried to learn in spite of them. Through years of fights and abuse, he showed up to school every day determined to learn as he was to prove his tormentors wrong. But by sixth grade, he couldn’t do it anymore; the scars — both physical and emotional — had become too many and too painful to bear. He dropped out and became a day laborer.

He covered his face as he worked to protect himself from the occasional stares of coworkers and passersby.

Adding to his pain, his family knew cleft surgery was possible all this time, but his father refused to pursue it for reasons he never explained. In fact, another baby with a cleft was born in his village and, at only a few years old, received the care he needed to smile and thrive. Yet even while marveling at this other child’s smile, his father denied one for his own son. That broke Wesley worse than anything that happened at school.

Wesley before cleft surgery
Wesley, at age 33

Still, in spite of all of the hurt, he refused to believe he wasn’t worthy of being loved. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he grasped onto what few scraps of self-confidence he could muster and managed to ask out a girl he liked. She said no. It hurt, but Wesley had experienced worse. He picked himself up and tried again.

And again. After three tries, he at last found his soulmate, a woman who loved him just as he was.

Falling in love is one thing; getting married is another. How could he risk it? He would never forgive himself for knowingly passing his cleft on to his child.

His wife wouldn’t hear of it. She reminded him that she married him exactly because she wanted children who would be just like him: Strong, resilient, thoughtful, kind, tenacious… and handsome.

Wesley is now the proud father of two girls, neither of whom has a cleft.

He supports his family by driving a “boda boda,” or motorcycle taxi. It’s good work and it gave him an excuse to wear a mask all day so riders would never see his face.

Still, he never lost hope of someday receiving help, and when his father passed away in 2022, when Wesley was 31, he immediately began scouring the city for cleft treatment. Once again, his initiative was its own luck: Just a few days into his search, he found that Smile Train partner Bela Risu Foundation was holding an outreach day in Kisumu, his city. He signed up on the spot.

And grinned widely. How surprised will my girls be if I show up one day without a cleft? he thought. He told no one his plans. He anticipated the day more than he had dared to anticipate anything since his first day of school.

When it came at last, Wesley straddled a borrowed motorcycle at the crack of dawn and rode for five hours to Bela Risu. That evening, he drove home with his head held high and delivered his family the shock of their lives, for the second time.

Wesley holding his two daughters, one in each arm
Wesley gave his girls the surprise — and the smile — of their lives when he snuck away for Smile Train-supported cleft surgery

“I was unrecognizable,” he laughs.

Wesley in his boda boda
Wesley’s customers love seeing his smile, and he isn’t shy about showing it off

Back in his boda boda, his clients feel the same. “Most of my customers had never seen my face; now I can smile with them!”

Wesley’s story shows how, no matter what adversity life throws at you, there’s still hope for a better tomorrow as long as you never stop believing that you deserve to see it.

“Thank you, Smile Train, for making my dream come true.”

Give hope and a second chance at life to people of all ages.