Lala’s tireless efforts resulted in 33 patients from his district traveling to the Antananarivo medical mission in April 2016. Of these, 21 adults and children received surgery. Others will return during our next mission.
A Passion for Malagasy Smiles
True passion is a rare and precious thing. For Andriarimalala Solo Radaoroson, passion for Operation Smile’s work in Madagascar changed not only his life, but numerous other lives as well.
Mr. Lala, as he is affectionately known, had never witnessed a cleft condition until his daughter, Laly, was born with a cleft lip.
“I had heard about it as a boy,” he said. “And I was very sad when she was born as I had never thought it could happen to her.”
Her condition was difficult to manage. She seemed to fall ill more often than other children. And Mr Lala feared she would not live long.
Laly was nearly two years old when he heard a radio announcement about an Operation Smile medical mission to Tamatave. After travelling nearly 400 kilometers by bus, Laly was selected for and underwent surgery. It proved to be a defining moment for Lala and his family. “There is no word to describe our happiness,” he said. “She was finally like everyone else.”
“I am not going to stop. Once I have finished with my district I will move on to the next one.”
– Andriarimalala Solo Radaoroson
Afterwards, Lala found himself aflame with a desire to tell more people about the life-changing surgeries we provide for patients in Madagascar.
“When I saw how many people have this problem, I decided to tell everyone that there is an organisation that does this work,” he said. “At first, peope don’t believe me. They think I’m trying to lure them into something strange. But eventually, they accept the truth of what I’m saying.”
Lala visits families around his district either on his bicycle or in the course of his work as a builder. After his daughter received surgery, he wanted to bring the same happiness to others affected by cleft conditions.
First, Lala shows people pre- and post-operation images of Laly. Then he convinces them that they could expect similar results. And finally, he explains that this surgery costs them nothing.
One of the patients Lala helped is Fidelis, a shy 8-year-old who loves to play soccer but clings close to his mother. She found hope for her son when Lala visited them and explained how Operation Smile could help.
“People, especially children, tease him. So he often runs away from school as he cannot bear the teasing,” she said. “We didn’t know it could be fixed until Mr. Lala came and showed us the pictures. Now we are so happy that our son will live a normal life.”
Lala has no plans to slow down his search for potential Operation Smile patients.
“I am not going to stop,” he said. “Once I have finished with my district I will move on to the next one. I want Malagasy people to know Operation Smile can help them.”
Editor’s Note: Mr. Lala delivered on his promise again when he brought 57 patients and their families to the September 2016 Antsirabe medical mission. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.