Clara's path to recovery


Meet Clara, a warm and friendly 9-year-old girl from Madagascar.

Born with a severe cleft lip and cleft palate, Clara has experienced many hardships in her young life. But we are happy to report that after receiving the first cleft lip surgery on September 2016, last May at our Antsirabe medical mission Clara received a life-changing cleft palate surgery!

Soon after Clara was born, her mother abandoned their family. She was ashamed to have given birth to a child with Clara's condition.

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But Clara’s devoted father, Dede, would not leave his daughter. He made it his mission to care for Clara as best as he could.

Clara, her father, step-mother and younger siblings live in a rural, remote area of Madagascar. Clara and her father must walk two hours to the nearest health centre if they need to access any health services.

Dede is a farmer and isn’t able to afford basic items for the family, such as shoes, on his limited income. The cost of transportation is also out of reach for the family and they must walk anywhere they need to travel.

Thanks to transportation provided by Operation Smile in Madagascar, Clara and Dede were able to attend the Antsirabe medical mission in September of 2016 and in May 2017. Clara travelled to the mission site in the hopes of receiving surgery to repair her cleft lip and palate.

At the medical mission site, Clara saw other children with cleft conditions for the first time. She was used to being teased and called names because of her cleft, but here, Clara felt welcomed and she was happy to be around others who looked like her.

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Clara quickly made friends with other young patients and spent her time colouring and playing games during the screening days.

When her name was called, Clara met with paediatric intensivist Isabelle Simoneau from the United States and received a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine if she was healthy enough for surgery. After the assessment, Dr. Simoneau was excited to share the good news with Clara and Dede – Clara would be receiving cleft surgery during that medical mission!


Just a few days later, Clara received the surgery she and her family have been dreaming about for so many years. Anaesthetist Jonas Wanbro from Sweden brought Clara out after surgery to her father. Upon seeing Clara’s new smile, Dede was filled with joy!

Clara and Dede were eager to show off Clara’s new smile to everyone in their community. "When we came home after the first surgery all the people in the village were very surprised to see her face. I told them it was Operation Smile that had given Clara the surgery and it was a very happy moment.” – Dede

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Since receiving surgery, Clara is doing better in school and is more confident around the classmates that used to tease her. Dede says that her speech is much clearer and she is more easily understood by others when she speaks.

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Surgery has helped to transform more than just Clara’s appearance. Her family shares that she has been even more gleeful, energetic and full of life since she’s arrived back home. 

“No way that it was really her. I mean look at her – she is a different girl completely, even in her character, the way she communicates, talks, plays. She has changed so much!” – Clara’s extended family member

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After receiving her first surgery in September 2016, Clara and her father came back to Antsirabe in May 2017, where she received her second surgery to repair her palate. 


Editor’s note. Clara’s story was featured on our Christmas appeal. You can help us send medical supplies to help 1,960 children this Christmas!

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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