Up until he was in his 30s, Alfred thought there wasn’t anything he could do to change his appearance. Born with a cleft condition, he was familiar with the pain of being treated differently. But he never retaliated, because he believed his cleft lip was how God made him.
It took him 10 years to pluck up the courage to ask the love of his life, Alice, to marry him. Today, the couple have three children and earn a living growing rice and vegetables on a plot of land. Unconditional love fills their lives with happiness.
Alfred discovers surgery is possible
One day, a visitor to their village told Alfred that surgery to correct his cleft lip was possible. Alfred journeyed from his home, completing a 4-hour walk and a 2-hour bus ride, to reach the hospital in the nearest town. But after hearing what the total cost of the operation would be, he knew that surgery was beyond his family’s means.
So he continued with his life, always greeting people with kindness and a bright smile, despite the pain he endured living with an untreated cleft condition for more than 50 years. He never expected his life to change.
Operation Smile patient advocates
But in 2018, Operation Smile patient advocates, Fidelis and Bao, travelled to his village searching for patients born with cleft lip and cleft palate. Fidelis, whose son had received a new smile from the organisation, approached Alfred and told him about Operation Smile, explaining that volunteers could provide him with safe, life-changing care.
Encouraged by Fidelis’ story, the family traveled to Antsirabe, where Alfred finally had the surgery he needed. Now he tells anyone who will listen how Operation Smile and our passionate volunteers changed his life.
His brother, Rosafrederis, was also born with a cleft condition. According to Alfred, his brother is shy and was scared to make the journey with him to Antsirabe. But he hopes Rosafrederis will see his new smile and be encouraged to attend a future Operation Smile mission and also receive surgery.
Impact of a new smile
More than anyone, Alfred’s family understands the impact his new smile has had on him. For most of their lives, Alice saw how painful the teasing was for her husband. Today, she shares in the joy he feels since undergoing surgery.
“Thank you, Operation Smile,” Alfred said. “Please continue your work.”