Aye lives in an unrecognised area of Myanmar, known as the Wa State. The Wa speak their own language and there is a drastic shortage of social services, as travel in and out of the region is heavily regulated by the military. The majority of the state’s children will never attend school — its 90% illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world.
In 2016, Aye was overcome with emotion when she learned that her first child, Ei, was born with a cleft lip. In Aye’s words, “It pained me that I could not even feed my daughter. I felt I had failed her as a mother. I cried for weeks.”
Aye learned that cleft surgeries were available in other areas of Myanmar, but, even if she was allowed to leave the state, she knew that she would never be able to afford the surgery since the family was surviving on the equivalent of £520 a year. Aye said she’d lie awake at night, contemplating if her daughter would ever get married or find a job.
Then, in 2017, Northern Women’s Development Foundation, a community mobilisation group from Thailand, gained access to Aye’s town and informed her that Smile Train provides cleft surgeries at the Kyaing Tong Military Hospital, free of charge. Amazingly, Aye’s request to leave the state was granted and she made the 500-mile journey to the hospital.
Aye was greeted in Kyaing Tong by a local team of Smile Train partner surgeons and support staff, led by Dr Myint Myint Khaing. Ei was approved for her cleft lip surgery, and Aye’s worries about her daughter’s future faded away when Ei received her new smile the very next day.
Before returning back to her home, Aye commented, “Thank you Smile Train. I will always remember what you have done for us. My beautiful daughter has a beautiful smile.”
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