Ngan's story

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In Vietnamese, Ngan’s name means “star,” but she wasn’t able to smile brightly when she was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate.

Ngan’s family lives on the equivalent of €1.25 per day in the small, isolated village of Quy Nhon province in southern Vietnam. Without help, her family would never have been able to afford the reconstructive surgery that would change Ngan’s life and give her a bright future. But when Ngan’s parents heard that Operation Smile was conducting a surgical mission in Danang, Vietnam, they did everything in their power to bring Ngan to the medical mission. Ngan and her family travelled more than 200 miles for the chance to heal her smile.

Ngan received life-changing surgery on her cleft lip and cleft palate and now, 10 years later, she is a happy, healthy, vibrant girl – with a smile that shows it. As a hardworking student herself, Ngan dreams of becoming a teacher and allowing other children the chance to enjoy reading, writing and learning as much as she does.

Before she had surgery, Ngan’s facial deformity hindered her social engagement and even her involvement in school. Now, with the confidence she gained from her new smile, Ngan can reach her full potential. As a teacher, she can change the lives of others by helping the children in her village gain an education. Ngan’s parents say they had given up everything but hope before Operation Smile gave their daughter the chance to see her dreams become a reality. “Many poor families in our province will abandon their child if a baby is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate,” Ngan’s father said. He never wants this to happen, knowing how miraculous the transformation is with a free surgery through Operation Smile.

Ngan was saved by the gift of surgery and her father knows that other children will be, too, if his family can bring greater understanding of cleft conditions to their community. Ngan’s parents now actively refer other families of children born with facial deformities to Operation Smile in Vietnam. They are determined to ensure that every child has the opportunity for a bright future, regardless of their appearance. Today Ngan laughs with friends and smiles brightly. Her life has changed significantly.

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“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President