Ernest and Rosine Kengne of Yaoundé, Cameroon were excited when they learned that their baby would be born just days after the baby of Ernest’s sister was expected to arrive. The family liked to imagine the cousins growing up together and looking out for one another in the classroom and beyond. However, to the family’s dismay, Ernest’s sister and her infant tragically passed away during childbirth.
Only six days after the deaths, Rosine gave birth to her son Simone. To the family’s “shock,” Simone was born with a cleft lip. Ernest explained how they felt: “We didn’t really know what a cleft was or what caused it. We knew a child with a cleft when we were in school and she was always alone — we didn’t want that for our child. And for this to happen only six days after my sister died was very difficult for our family.”
Upon returning home, the extended family gathered to consider whether they should bring Simone out into the community — they were worried about what would be said about their family. Ernest’s mother, who had just lost a daughter, reminded them, “When God gives you the gift of a child, you have to embrace it. We lost our daughter, but we have gained Simone.” Several family members still protested, but it was at this time that Ernest and Rosine fully accepted Simone into the family — undetermined future and all.
Rosine was having difficulties feeding Simone, so she went to a local hospital, where she learned techniques on how to feed him without his choking. At the hospital, a family member noticed a flyer about free Smile Train-supported cleft surgeries; Ernest was elated and called the number. They learned that Simone was still too young and underweight for the procedure, but after just a few weeks of proper feeding he was approved for his cleft lip surgery.
When the day came for Simone’s surgery, Ernest and Rosine nearly backed out — they were terrified that they would lose their son. Thankfully, the staff at local Smile Train partner WeCCARE Foundation was able to walk them through the entire procedure and ensure them that Simone would be okay. Though every minute of Simone’s surgery felt like an hour, family members were there to calm the frightened parents.
Finally, the surgeon came into the waiting room and told them that they could see their son. Rosine recalled, “I did not recognize my child — he was transformed. Joy was restored to our home and to our marriage — the death in the family and Simone’s cleft had taken away our lives. Seeing Simone’s smile was the moment we got our lives back.”
Now that Simone has received his free cleft surgery, he’ll have the opportunity to attend school, make friends with children in his community, and live a life filled with lots of smiles.
If you would like to help support cleft treatments for a child in need, please make a gift today.