Amelie Leaves Her Room and Enters the Spotlight

“Thank you for helping me sing and make friends and live my dream.”

Nine-year-old Amelie was born with a cleft palate, which can prevent babies from feeding, leading to severe malnutrition or worse if not treated in time. Thankfully, her family was referred to Fundación Gantz, their local Smile Train partner, shortly after she was born. There, a local team of cleft specialists gave her the free cleft surgery that saved her life when she was nine months old — the earliest possible safe time.

Though she could now eat like any other child, her cleft continued to cause serious problems for her as she grew. That one surgery could not be the end of her cleft treatment, so it could not be the end of her Smile Train journey, either.

Here is the rest of her Smile Train story, in her own words.

My name is Amelie, I live in Chile. I am nine years old and I was born with a cleft, though I got a surgery for it when I was a baby.

Amelie smiling and hugging her mother
Amelie and her mom sharing a smile

My mom is an actress. I always dreamed of performing on stage like her. Everyone in my family likes to sing. My dad gave me a karaoke machine, and me, my mom, and my grandmother have a lot of fun when we sing together.

Amelie smiling with her mother and grandmother after cleft surgery
The next great Chilean singer songwriter with her mom and grandmother

When I am playing at home, I like to play music on my computer, and when a song I like comes on, I jump out of my chair to sing and dance. Sometimes, I imagine myself on a stage, with many people watching me playing the guitar and singing at the same time.

Amelie using her computer
Sometimes, while on her computer, Amelie’s imagination carries her far away from her room in Chile

But I was afraid to sing in front of other people because, even though I had a surgery, my cleft still made it hard for me to speak clearly. I even felt ashamed when my great-grandparents asked me to sing for them, so I would only sing a small part.

One day my mom was looking at her phone and got a message that Fundación Gantz and Smile Train were putting together a choir for children with clefts. I immediately said, “I want to go.” My family was very happy to hear the news and they always gave me their support.

In the choir, I made some friends. When we see each other, we play a lot. We run and jump.

The choir helped me to sing in front of people. Singing in public still makes me nervous but I'm not afraid to do it anymore.

What I like most about the choir is that they tell you the truth, like, “You're super good, Amelie, but you have to lower your voice a little,” or, “You have to raise your voice a little.”

It's fun to go to the recitals and sing. It feels good to be calm and singing. It makes me feel safe.

For my future, I have always dreamed of two things: to be a singer or videogame designer.

Amelie smiling and hugging her mother, father and grandmother after cleft surgery
Amelie’s family sharing a happy moment

Thank you for helping me sing and make friends and live my dream.

Help children with clefts not only smile, but thrive.