It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s Gael

30 December 2019 | Smile Train

Eight years ago, Juanita met the love of her life, Everardo, at their company Christmas party. Three years later, they were overjoyed to learn Juanita was pregnant. But Juanita was also a bit nervous — both she and her younger brother were born with clefts and she knew her baby might also be born with the condition.

When Juanita went into labour, her excitement was greater than her fear. Gael was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate, but Juanita had learned from her own experiences. She was ready to help him overcome the challenges she knew he would face and was determined to help him succeed — no matter what.

Gael after surgery.

Supported by Smile Train’s local medical partners, Juanita and Everardo were able to get Gael the essential comprehensive cleft care he needed at no cost. This included placing a small retainer in Gael’s mouth to help him feed properly, specialised nutritional support, surgery to repair his cleft lip and cleft palate, speech services, and ongoing emotional support.

Gael with his parents.

Today, Gael is an energetic and healthy five-year-old. He enjoys going to the “little hospital” — his affectionate nickname for the emotional support workshop he regularly attends with peers also receiving cleft treatment.

Gael admires his new smile in the mirror.

Gael with his friends at the 'little hospital.'

The sessions focus on strengthening self-esteem, self-image, and developing social skills.

Gael with his speech therapist.

Gael loves superheroes and these workshop sessions make him feel like one. Ask him his favourite thing to do and he’ll proudly yell “Helping others!” He wants to be a policeman or fireman when he grows up so he can dedicate his life to helping others, just as Smile Train helped him.

Gael holding a Smile Train sign.


To be a superhero to more children like Gael, please make a life-saving donation to Smile Train today.