Luz Elena brought a newspaper article to the opening clinic with headline, “He needs a smile.” It told the story of her wish for her 21 month old son, Angel, and how she has no money to pay for the surgery. She had been carrying it for three months and now that Rotaplast is here in Barquisimeto, Angel will get his new smile.

She is a single mom who lives in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, near the border with Colombia. She and Angel rode the bus for four hours to arrive at the clinic. Angel has both a cleft lip and palate, making it difficult for him to eat properly. Left untreated, he would not have normal speech and, as one can imagine, he would have a most difficult time socially.

We have evaluated 143 prospective patients so far and surgery got underway today. Angel’s turn is coming up very soon and I look forward to posting a photo of his new smile.

Jerry Meshulam, Photojournalist