Marcelline's story

Today Marceline is in school, and she’s confident for the first time in her life. Your support makes stories like these possible.


The other kids stared at me and laughed


Eleven-year-old Marceline is a bright girl with beautiful eyes. But to others in her village, she was an outcast and cursed because she was born with a cleft lip that left her nose, mouth and teeth disfigured.

From the beginning, her mother worried. “We did not know how to give her milk,” she said. “I was worried she would die of thirst.”

But worse was to come. Marceline became an outcast. At school, she she was bullied. She just wanted to play with the other kids, but they called her names and spat on her.

In class, “Even if I think I know the answer, I don’t raise my hand,” she said. “I don’t want to be called on.”

Eventually she stopped going to school. Instead, she hid at home. When she did venture out, she tried to hide her face.

“They told me: ‘Don’t come around here. You are making us sick to our stomachs.’ And they hit me.”

When Marceline and her mother heard on the radio that Operation Smile was coming to Rwanda, friends lent them the money to make the long trip.

“When my name was called for surgery, I was so excited that I was shaking,” Marceline said.

In just one hour, our skilled surgeons repaired her cleft lip and reshaped her nose, giving her hope for a better life.

Today Marceline is in school, and she’s confident for the first time in her life – thanks to Operation Smile, our dedicated medical volunteers, and friends like you who fund this vital work. Thank you!

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