The following is a firsthand account of Smile Train graphic designer Wendrich Montero’s recent visit to Smile Train partners and patients in Mexico.
I’d been working at Smile Train for nearly a year when I had my first opportunity to visit a Smile Train partner. One of Smile Train’s staff members in Mexico, Monica, shared that, on top of the project I was helping with, I would get to meet former Smile Train patients and their families. I was so excited as their bravery and strength inspire me every day.
I arrived at Smile Train’s local partner SUMA and was greeted by toddler Regina and her parents, Andrea and Julio Cesar. Regina hummed her favorite jingle, and she used her two favorite words, “mama” and “water,” on repeat.
Julia shared that, after her daughter Regina was born with a cleft lip, she went through severe postpartum depression. Julia’s helplessness worsened because Regina choked at every feeding — it was so bad that the grandparents nearly called an ambulance.
Thankfully, Julia visited SUMA on the recommendation of her friends. She received counseling on Regina’s feeding issues, and she joined an online support group to get advice any time she needed it. A few months later, Regina received her forever smile and has had ongoing cleft treatment ever since.
Next, I had the pleasure of meeting Jazmin, a former Smile Train-supported patient further down her recovery journey. Over a 10-year period, Jazmin had several surgeries, and she is currently in orthodontic treatment. Her parents shared that, with each treatment, Jazmin was able to improve her eating and talking more easily and to gain weight.
Jazmin is now 13 years old and can’t stop smiling. She wants to be a Smile Train psychologist when she grows up and to help children with clefts develop self-confidence. I have no doubt that she will achieve her dream.
Then, I got to meet Gisela, a 21-year-old mom whose eight-month-old baby girl, Valentina, would receive cleft surgery the next day. I’d be so nervous if I were in Gisela’s shoes, but when I asked her what she was feeling, she said “happiness.” She was happy that Valentina would be able to thrive and live a happy and healthy life.
The common thread of every interaction I had with these families was gratitude. Each family asked me to pass along their eternal thanks for the gift Smile Train provided for their family. Many people play a part in every cleft treatment that Smile Train supports: parents, medical teams, donors, social workers — maybe an awareness flyer I designed played a part (who knows?). The end result of all these cogs working together is completely transformed lives; it is magical and something we can all be grateful for.
If you would like to help us provide forever smiles to children in Mexico and other countries around the world with Smile Train programs, please make a gift today.