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Testimonials: Before and After Smiles...

Operation Smile's volunteer medical professionals travel around the world to treat children suffering from facial deformities. Their efforts mean new smiles for thousands of children, including these former patients:

Brigid Turkana Girls The Makokha Family John Maina Ibrahim

John Maina

John Mania of Kenya: From Shy Street Child to Confident Student

When Lauren Beckstrom, an Operation Smile Medical Records volunteer, first saw the young boy, she had no idea what an impact he’d have on her life. She and other volunteers were in Nairobi, Kenya, during a mission in November, 2001. They were setting up their medical records station, when Lauren was approached by a man holding the hand of 13-year-old John Mania who had a cleft lip and cleft palate.

She learned John was a street child from nearby Thika, and the man with him was Duncan Githaiga, a café owner who had befriended John and gave him food. When Duncan heard that Operation Smile would be in Nairobi, he closed his café, found John and brought him to see the Operation Smile team. John looked terrified. Duncan explained to Lauren that John couldn’t speak very well because he had never been to school, having lived his life on the streets of Thika.

John was accepted for surgery and while he was being treated, Lauren talked to Duncan, learning how much he cared for John and how much he wanted John to be able to go to school. Lauren offered to help him, telling him if he could find a school for John to attend, she would make sure his education was paid for.

That January, just two months after his surgery, an excited John, now able to smile, entered school for the first time in his life, thanks to Duncan, Lauren, and the generous people who donated money for his education.

Fast forward to October, 2002. Lauren eagerly anticipated her second mission to Kenya and the opportunity to see John again. After the missions in four sites were completed, she was at a reception for the volunteers when she saw Duncan and John walk into the room. John was dressed in his school uniform. Lauren rushed over and John greeted her with “hello!” Last year, he had barely spoken, and now he greeted her in English. For Lauren, it was a very powerful moment.

Later in the week, she visited Duncan’s home where John lives during school breaks, and the Dayspring Academy where John is thriving.

John’s transformation began with the life-changing surgery provided by Operation Smile. He is a shining example of Operation Smile’s motto: “changing lives, one smile at a time.”

“It was extremely hard to say goodbye to John that day, but I was comforted to know that John was being well taken care of. His life has been changed and his future is becoming brighter and brighter every day.” –Lauren Beckstrom, Operation Smile volunteer, Minneapolis, MN

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