A Passion for Malagasy Smiles – Tiếng Việt

True passion is a rare and precious thing. In the case of Andriarimalala Solo Radaoroson, his 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, but I was very sad when she was born as I had never thought it could happen to her,” Lala said.

He admitted that her condition was difficult to manage, as she seemed to fall ill more often than other children. He feared she would not live long.

However, when Laly was nearly 2 years old, he heard a radio announcement regarding an Operation Smile medical mission to Tamatave in September 2015. After travelling nearly 400 kilometers by bus, Laly was selected for and underwent surgery. The free procedure 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


Upon returning home to his village, Lala found himself aflame with a desire to tell more people about the life-changing surgeries Operation Smile provides for patients in Madagascar.

“When I saw all the people with this problem, I decided to tell everyone that there is an organization that does this work,” he said enthusiastically. “Many people think I am a liar at first and trying to lure them into something strange, but eventually, they accept me.”

This indomitable spirit persuaded 33 patients from Lala’s district to travel to the Antananarivo medical mission in April 2016. Twenty-one of these adults and children were scheduled for surgery while the others will be assisted at upcoming missions.

Lala visits families around his district either on his bicycle or in the course of his work as a builder. He admitted this commitment means he’s not able to earn as much as he would if he were working full time. However, after his daughter received surgery, he wanted to bring the same happiness to people affected by cleft conditions in his district.

Lala follows a three-step process, beginning by showing them pre- and post-operation images of Laly. He then attempts to convince them that a transformation like his daughter’s is possible and finally explains that this surgery will cost them nothing.

One of the patients who Lala impacted 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 and 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.

A Landmark Patient – Tiếng Việt

Photo: Charlotte Steppling.

Editor’s Note: In August, we covered Operation Smile in Madagascar’s first-ever surgical training rotation at Centre Hospitalier de Référence Régionale in Antsirabe. Since then, we have conducted five out of the six rotations scheduled for 2017. Building on Operation Smile’s commitment to strengthening health systems where it works, international teams of medical volunteers provide training to Malagasy health care professionals by providing safe surgery for children suffering from cleft conditions. Throughout the rotations, we’ve been receiving informative and inspirational field updates from Charlotte Steppling, the project manager for Operation Smile in Madagascar. In this two-part “From the Field” series, Charlotte shares the compelling stories of two patients who received surgery during the fourth rotation, which took place Sept. 23 through Sept. 29. This is the first story.

Tsifoina was born with a cleft lip in 2016. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the 9-month-old boy became the 2,500th patient to be operated on by Operation Smile in Madagascar.

“When I gave birth to Tsifoina, I was so surprised – shocked to see his cleft. The doctor and midwife took him to the neonatal ward and came back to comfort me,” said Tiavina, Tsifoina’s mother. “They explained to me that cleft can be repaired. Yet, I couldn’t hear anything they said – my mind was blank. I was so surprised and could only imagine, ‘How could this happen to us? What did I do? What did this child do to deserve this?”

Tsifoina’s parents had seen television advertisements and heard from word-of-mouth that there were options for surgery, among them Operation Smile. First, they searched the internet and found the Operation Smile Facebook page. They contacted Operation Smile through direct message and spoke with Mamy Ramamonjisoa, country manager for Operation Smile in Madagascar.

“Two weeks after Tsifoina’s birth, we received an appointment to meet with Mrs. Mamy,” said Tsitohaina, Tsifoina’s father. “She explained to us that there are many different possibilities and she shared the information about the next international medical mission in Antsirabe in May.”

When the mission arrived in Antsirabe, so did the family with the hope that their then-4-month-old son would receive surgery.

Photo: Charlotte Steppling.

Unfortunately, Tsifoina was not chosen for surgery at the mission. Due to the overwhelming patient turnout – more than 500 arrived for screening – older children were given priority over infants like Tsifoina, who could wait for a future program and still be within ideal age range for surgery.

“I still kept hope. I knew that one day Operation Smile would call our family and we would have our turn to receive surgery,” Tiavina said. “I was impressed when I saw all of the children, all of the mothers, waiting to be chosen. There were hundreds. I told my husband, ‘One day it will be our turn. We must believe.’”

“We were told that there will be another international mission in November, but we were very surprised that we were called to come in September because there would be a mini-mission in Antsirabe,” Tsitohaina said of the opportunity for his son to receive surgery at the fourth of the six surgical training rotations being conducted in 2017.

“I could barely sleep – the days couldn’t go by any slower! We could not wait until September to go to Antsirabe,” Tiavina said.

The rotation arrived and Tsifoina received surgery from surgeon educator Dr. Mwepu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his mentees Drs. Ravaka and Briand of Madagascar. His mother and father patiently waited for him to come out of the operating room.

Once reunited with their son, tears of joy spread across the parents’ cheeks.

“Since the beginning, we were confident that if he receives surgery from Operation Smile, the results would be extraordinary,” Tiavina said. “And we are also so pleased to hear that Tsifoina is the 2,500th patient operated on in Madagascar!”

“What an honor,” Tsitohaina said. “We are so grateful to Operation Smile for having offered smiles to 2,500 patients in Madagascar. Thank you!”

Photo: Charlotte Steppling.

To Heal and to Comfort – Tiếng Việt

Editor’s Note: In August, we covered Operation Smile in Madagascar’s first-ever surgical training rotation at Centre Hospitalier de Référence Régionale in Antsirabe. Since then, we have conducted five out of the six rotations scheduled for 2017. Building on Operation Smile’s commitment to strengthening health systems where it works, international teams of medical volunteers provide training to Malagasy health care professionals by providing safe surgery for children suffering from cleft conditions. Throughout the rotations, we’ve been receiving informative and inspirational field updates from Charlotte Steppling, the project manager for Operation Smile in Madagascar. In this two-part “From the Field” series, Charlotte shares the compelling stories of two patients who received surgery during the fourth rotation, which took place Sept. 23 through Sept. 29. This is the second story.

Ten years ago, Mampionona was born in a small village 230 kilometers west of Antananarivo.

“When he was born, his mother did not know what to say – she had just seen her sister die from illness. She was very emotional when her baby was born,” said Tantely, Mampionona’s aunt. “We named the boy Mampionona, which in Malagasy means ‘to heal and to comfort.’ This baby became our healing and our family’s comfort.”

As a newborn, Mampionona had difficult eating because of his cleft lip. His mother tried hard to feed him milk with a cup. At 6 months old, he started eating solid foods and was able to gain a good amount of weight.

“This child was a gift – a gift from god. God knew that our family needed something special,” Tantely said. “We had just lived through a traumatic death in the family and this baby was here to comfort us. He gave us a child with a cleft because he knew we could take care of him.”

The family had heard that in a larger town nearby, there was a local doctor that could offer cleft surgery.

“But the surgery was so expensive,” Tantely said. “We tried saving up, but then ended up spending money on chickens, rice and household items. We never thought there would be a solution.”

In August, Tantely was invited to a wedding in another city. At the wedding, she met a young mother who was rocking her baby girl in her arms. Making pleasantries, Tantely asked her, “That is a beautiful baby, how old is she? Is she your only child?”

Tantely’s eyes widened as she glanced at the baby’s face.

“Does – does – did your baby have a cleft?” The words stumbled out of her mouth.

The mother of the baby nodded yes. She explained that not even two months prior she had gone to Antsirabe and received free surgery from Operation Smile.

Later that day, Tantely called Operation Smile in Madagascar’s hotline number. She spoke to Flex Manantsoa, the patient coordinator for Operation Smile in Madagascar and registered her nephew in the database.

One month later, Flex gave Mampionona’s family a call to inform them that he would have the chance to receive surgery at surgical training rotation being held in late September. The family was elated.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Tantely said. “I decided that I would accompany Mampionona to Antsirabe. His mother was pregnant and his grandma cannot travel long distances, so it was my duty to bring him.”

Before Mampionona arrived at the patient village on Friday afternoon, he had never seen another person with a cleft. He told his aunt, “Can you believe it? Look at this village – everyone looks like me! Everyone has a cleft. Even the small kids, even the babies, and even the adults – they all look like me!”

Mampionona went through screening and was selected for surgery. During the week, they met and talked with other families about their experiences.

“We all agree that it is such a relief to be here,” Tantely said. “To be taken care of by such nice people, and everything is free. From a place to sleep to soap to wash ourselves. We are so thankful.”

The following week, Mampionona returned to his village. It will be a big change for the villagers who have always known him for his unique cleft.

“They don’t believe we are really getting surgery – they think that to receive surgery I must give a piece of my thigh to put on Mampionona’s lip! Can you imagine? I mean, I would still give a piece of my thigh if I had too! People will be so shocked and surprised to see him. To see him smile. To see him look like everyone else,” Tantely said.

“I am going to tell everyone about this experience. I am going to find more people more children like Mampionona. I thank everyone on the Operation Smile team. Thank you for giving Mampionona the gift of smiling like all other children. Thank you!”

A Life-Changing Journey for Two Sisters – Tiếng Việt

When we first met Vaviroa and Nambina on our medical mission to Tamatave, Madagascar, the six- and two-year-old sisters shyly hid behind their parents and barely said a word. Years of bullying taught these young girls that the world didn’t want to see their smiles.

The girls’ parents knew that because both of their daughters were born with cleft, they would suffer deeply their entire lives — experiencing social ostracism, bullying, even physical pain — but surgery was out of the question. They had never been able to take their daughters to see a doctor, let alone afford two surgeries.

But that all changed this past fall, when Vaviroa and Nambina both received surgeries to fix their clefts — thanks to generous people like you.

As we prepare to go back to Madagascar this week, we hope you’ll take a moment to watch the inspiring video below about these brave sisters and their incredible journey.

Câu chuyện về Danh

Câu chuyện về Danh

Hình: Margherita Mirabella

Khi vô tư chơi bóng và cầu trượt cùng đám bạn ở một xã vùng sâu vùng xa của tỉnh miền núi Hòa Bình, một cậu bé 3 tuổi, Danh, dường như không hề bận tâm tới dị tật khe hở môi bẩm sinh của chính mình.

Tuy nhiên bất cứ khi nào đám bạn gọi cậu bằng cái biệt danh “Sứt”,  không kiềm chế được cơn giận do bị trêu chọc, Danh sẽ lao vào đánh những kẻ bắt nạt mình cho tới khi chúng ngừng việc nói cái biệt danh đầy xúc phạm đó.

Nhưng đáng kinh ngạc rằng, Danh chưa bao giờ khóc khi bị chế nhạo như thế. Đây chính là minh chứng cho tình yêu thương vô điều kiện và sự ủng hộ cần thiết từ gia đình cậu bé. Mẹ Danh – chị Ái và người cha – anh Luyến chưa từng gặp ai có dị tật khe hở môi cho tới khi Danh được sinh ra. Với họ, điều đó chẳng hề quan trọng khi so với niềm vui đón đứa con thứ ba của gia đình. Nữ hộ sinh của Ái đã giải thích rằng việc một đứa trẻ sinh ra với dị tật khe hở môi không phải là một điều hiếm gặp, và hoàn toàn có thể điều trị bằng phương pháp phẫu thuật.

Khi trạm y tế xã hướng dẫn gia đình về cách chăm sóc cho Danh, cậu bé đã không gặp bất cứ khó khăn nào trong việc bú mẹ – trong khi nhiều đứa trẻ có dị tật khe hở môi – hàm ếch khác, điều này là rất khó khăn, thậm chí là không thể. Với một số gia đình không đủ điều kiện tài chính, họ cũng không đủ tiền để chi trả chi phí phẫu thuật. Gia đình Danh cũng thế, là một gia đình thuần nông, cuộc sống dựa vào mảnh vườn và thửa ruộng. Chính vì thế, lựa chọn duy nhất là đăng kí trường hợp của Danh với chính quyền địa phương, để khi có chương trình phẫu thuật miễn phí, chính quyền sẽ thông báo cho gia đình.

Rồi ngày đó cũng đến, chính quyền xã thông báo có chương trình phẫu thuật miễn phí của Operation Smile tại Hà Nội, gia đình Danh đã vô cùng vui mừng.  Bố Danh, bà nội và người chú của Danh đã đưa cậu bé xuống Hà Nội với niềm hi vọng rằng bé sẽ được phẫu thuật. Trên chuyến xe kéo dài hai tiếng rưỡi đồng hồ, ai cũng bồn chồn và lo lắng, vì đây là lần đầu tiên họ xuống một thành phố lớn. Ở nhà để chăm đứa con thứ 4 mới chào đời, chị Ái cũng bồn chồn không kém, thấp thỏm mong đợi tin tức của cả nhà.

Tại bệnh viện nơi diễn ra chương trình, gia đình Danh rất ngạc nhiên khi gặp gỡ nhiều gia đình khác cũng trong hoàn cảnh tương tự. Trong bầu không khí đầy sự đồng cảm, họ đã chia sẻ rất nhiều về những kinh nghiệm chăm sóc một đứa trẻ có dị tật khe hở môi – hàm ếch. Tuy nhiên, sự đồng cảm dần dần nhường chỗ cho sự thất vọng: trong quá trình khám sàng lọc – một bước vô cùng quan trọng trong việc đảm bảo an toàn phẫu thuật – các bác sĩ cho biết Danh đang bị sốt, do đó cậu bé không thể được phẫu thuật trong chương trình lần này. Gia đình Danh sẽ phải chờ thêm 4 tháng nữa, khi chương trình tiếp theo được Operation Smile tổ chức tại Hà Nội.

4 tháng trôi qua mà cảm tưởng như quá lâu với những người đang chờ đợi. Rồi ngày đó cũng tới, Danh và bố mẹ lại khăn gói xuống Hà Nội để tham gia chương trình phẫu thuật của Operation Smile, nuôi hi vọng về cơ hội thứ hai để có được nụ cười lành lặn cho cậu bé. Lần này, sức khỏe của Danh tốt và đảm bảo đủ các điều kiện để tiến hành phẫu thuật. Sau 45 phút trong phòng mổ, cậu bé “Sứt” đã hoàn toàn lành lặn. Sáu tháng sau ca phẫu thuật, khi vết mổ hoàn toàn bình phục, mẹ Danh cho biết cả gia đình đã vui mừng khôn xiết khi đôi môi Danh được chữa lành như bao đứa trẻ bình thường khác, sức khỏe của Danh thậm chí còn được cải thiện hơn và điều quan trọng, là mẹ Danh có thể hiểu hoàn toàn những gì cậu bé nói.

Sau khi phục hồi hoàn toàn sau ca phẫu thuật đổi đời, Danh đi học trở lại. Tại trường, thỉnh thoảng cậu bé vẫn xô xát với đám bạn của mình, nhưng lũ trẻ không bao giờ gọi Danh là “Sứt” nữa.

Mẹ Danh còn cho biết, chị và gia đình vô cùng biết ơn những người ủng hộ và tình nguyện viên của Operation Smile – những người đã làm thay đổi mãi mãi cuộc đời con trai mình, giống như đã thay đổi cuộc đời của hơn 60,000 trẻ em khác trên khắp đất nước khi Operation Smile bắt đầu hoạt động tại Việt Nam.

Câu chuyện về Nguyễn Triệu Hải Băng

Nguyễn Triệu Hải Băng, một em bé 6 tháng tuổi, bị bỏ rơi vì bé sinh ra với một khuôn mặt không lành lặn, may mắn được nhận nuôi và sống giữa tình thương của những người tu hành. Với Hải Băng, sống sót đã là một điều kì diệu chứ chưa nói đến một tương lai được đi học, có bạn bè như bao đứa trẻ bình thường khác.

Sư cô Nguyên là người đã cưu mang bé khi bé chỉ mới được 2 tháng 4 ngày. Lúc đó, bé bị suy dinh dưỡng nghiêm trọng, cân nặng chỉ vỏn vẹn 2,15 kg. Sư Nguyên kể với chúng tôi rằng sau khi đón bé về, suốt tuần đầu tiên bé hầu như không ăn uống được, dù chỉ là một chút sữa. Mọi người đều cho rằng bé sẽ không sống nổi. Thế mà, bằng tình thương và sự kiên nhẫn, bằng tất cả sự cố gắng với tấm lòng nhân hậu, ngày từng ngày, sư cô chăm chút, săn sóc cho Hải Băng để bé khỏe mạnh hơn từng chút, từng chút một.

Dù thoát khỏi lưỡi hái tử thần nhờ tình thương của những người tu hành, nhưng dị tật trên khuôn mặt Hải Băng vẫn chưa được chữa lành. Sau cánh cửa chùa, bé vẫn gặp rất nhiều khó khăn trong những việc được coi như bản năng như ăn và uống, chưa kể đến việc “được coi là một đứa trẻ bình thường”. Cho đến một ngày hữu duyên, một nhóm nhân viên của FPT biết tới hoàn cảnh của bé và mang đến tin vui về chương trình phẫu thuật của Operation Smile Việt Nam tại Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh. Với sự giúp đỡ tận tình từ các tấm lòng FPT, sơ Nguyễn đã đưa Hải Băng tới ngày khám sàng lọc của chương trình.

Trong vòng tay của những tình nguyện viên, trên môi Hải Băng luôn nở một nụ cười, dù chưa trọn vẹn nhưng nụ cười của em gây xúc động mạnh tới trái tim của mọi người. Và khi bác sĩ thông báo bé là một trong những đứa trẻ được phẫu thuật vào ngày đầu tiên, không chỉ riêng Sư Nguyên mà những tình nguyện viên, bác sĩ, nhân viên y tế, gia đình bệnh nhân khác đều vô cùng vui mừng vì biết rằng, sau cuộc phẫu thuật, cuộc sống của Hải Băng sẽ thay đổi rất nhiều. Đặc biệt, nụ cười của em sẽ tươi xinh và rạng rỡ hơn.

Buổi sáng sau ngày phẫu thuật, cô y tá vệ sinh vết thương và thay băng cho Hải Băng trước khi bé được xuất viện. Mặc dù vết thương mới còn rất đau, nhưng bé tuyệt nhiên không khóc, bé nằm ngoan ngoãn trên giường và nhìn mọi người bằng ánh mắt trong veo, trong tinh khiết như chính những tình thương đã cứu sống, cưu mang và giúp đỡ bé qua giai đoạn khó khăn nhất của cuộc đời.

Trước khi nói lời tạm biệt, Sư Nguyên giờ đây đã có thể tự tin chia sẻ những kế hoạch về tương lai của Hải Băng: “Từ nay con đã không cần phải giấu mình trong chùa để tránh những cái nhìn kì thị về khuôn mặt không lành lặn của mình nữa, mà có thể tự tin hòa nhập với cộng đồng. Nếu có duyên với nhà Phật, bé có thể quy y. Nhưng nếu bé muốn học Đại học, nhà chùa sẽ giúp bé. Chuyện đi học bây giờ không còn là điều gì đó quá xa vời.”

K’ Quý – Tiếng Việt

The first time I saw K’ Quy is when he was sitting with his grandmother in the hallway of the hospital. His innocent eyes immediately caught us. The naïve eyes which showed nothing but sadness, confusion and fear. K’ Quy’s grandmother told us that even though K’Quy has turned 7 years old already but he cannot speak Vietnamese native language and he could only communicate with his grandmother.

K’ Quy is from a poor family in a remote area in Lam Ha District, Lam Dong Province. His grandmother described to us about his house which is not exactly “a house” because it is almost empty which only has the most basic furniture without television and vehicles at all. K’ Quy’s family has a small piece of land for cultivation. They used to harvest crops once year, however, in the past few year, due to the harsh weather, their life is more and more difficult. His parents, therefore, must do whatever they got hired to earn extra money to make ends meet.

K’ Quy often stays at home alone. Sometimes the neighbors helps to look after K’ Quy because his brother goes to school while his parents go to work outside all day long. Grandmother also lives quite far away and cannot visit K’ Quy frequently. This time, knowing about Operation Smile Mission, his grandmother left behind her works to accompany K’ Quy to Ho Chi Minh City. More than everything, she only wants K’ Quy to have a beautiful smile like every children.

K’ Quy’s grandmother shared that although K’ Quy pronounces very slow but he is very smart and intelligent. She hoped that after surgery, K’ Quy could go to school like his brother and other friends. However, after just a few minute, she hesitated and said that “K’ Quy’s parents also want to let him go to school, but I’m afraid that they could not afford the tuition fee for two children!” Those desperate words cannot get out of our head.