Three Rays of Light for a Family Lost in the Darkness

January 15, 2020 | Smile Train

Nanik and his wife, Yani lived a modest, yet fulfilling life catching and selling fish and raising a growing family in their remote village in Indonesia.

In 2008, Yani gave birth to a child with a cleft lip — a condition the family had never heard of before. Nanik and Yani felt completely unable to help their daughter, yet they named her Pelangi (meaning “Rainbow” in the local language). They hoped that vibrant color and light would soon illuminate their daughter’s murky future.

Unfortunately, over the following years, Pelangi’s light was hidden by dark skies. At school, classmates called her horrible names or ignored her entirely. A student even hit her with rocks.

Pelangi on a bike.

Then, when Pelangi was eight years old, Nanik and Yani had another baby with a cleft lip and palate. Still hopeful, they named the girl Cahaya, “Light.”

Sadly, some in the community incorrectly blamed Cahaya’s cleft on her older sister, believing Pelangi brought a curse on the family. If not for the special bond she shared with her new sister, Pelangi would have felt completely alone.

Pelangi holding her baby sister.

One day the family heard about a hospital that provided cleft surgeries for free. Nanik and Yani grabbed the girls and made the journey despite the long distance and cost of travel. When they arrived, they learned that the surgeries they desperately needed would not be free and the treatments would actually cost more than they could possibly afford — it was a scam, run by a front group.

Nanik and Yani cried the whole way home, their hope of providing a better life for their daughters crushed. Pelangi lost hope as well. She dropped out of school, unable to endure her classmates’ ridicule any longer.

Then, just when they needed it most, a ray of light peeked through the darkness. A stranger saw Pelangi and alerted a local Smile Train social worker.

The social worker arrived to find a traumatized family unable to trust anyone. The social worker refused to take no for an answer, however, and, after much patience and persistence, finally earned Nanik’s trust.

Pelangi with her mom, holding her before picture.

The family arrived at Smile Train partner Yayasan Ummi Romlah and the girls received their free cleft treatments.

Pelangi, now 10, walks with a new confidence as passersby now bombard her with compliments. She even hopes to be in class again next school year.

Pelangi and Cahaya holding their before pictures with their parents and a few siblings.

Shortly after Pelangi and Cahaya’s surgeries, Nanik and Yani had another baby girl with a cleft lip. They called her Safitri, “Of the Sun.” That she and Cahaya will never know Pelangi’s experience is another ray of hope for the whole family.

Pelangi nuzzling Safitri in her mother's arms, as her father and Cahaya look on.

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