Restoring a Mother’s Trust and a Son’s Smile

24 November 2020 | Smile Train

When Kiptoo’s third child, Alex, was born with a cleft, she hid him away. She had never seen a cleft before and was afraid of what the neighbours might say and do to him.

Over the coming weeks, she realised that this was no way to raise a child. What kind of future would her son have hidden away?

She decided to let people see her baby, and, to her surprise, her fear turned to relief. Not only was the community emotionally supportive, they came together to raise money to give Alex the treatment he so badly needed. By the time Alex was two years old, they had raised enough to cover the surgery and its related costs.

Alex before his cleft surgery

When the day for Alex’s surgery came, Kiptoo didn’t walk out of the village; she floated away on the well-wishes of her family and neighbours and her own high hopes for the child in her arms. She returned a short time later with her face to the ground. The man she trusted with the community’s money conned her out of all of it, leaving her with nothing: no funds, no surgery, and no hope.

A few years later, Alex was getting bullied in school for his cleft, and the stress caused him to fall behind. Kiptoo knew what a bright kid he was, and it pained her to see him so down on himself. Around that time, she heard over the radio that an organisation called Smile Train was offering free cleft treatments at nearby Migori County Hospital. She didn’t believe it. She wanted to ignore it. But, now without any money for surgery, she knew it could be her only hope.

Alex smiling after his cleft surgery

She went to the hospital, and the staff convinced her there was no catch — thanks to Smile Train’s generous donors around the world, her son would, at last, receive the cleft treatment he needed to thrive. All at no cost to her. She cried all the way home once again, this time, tears of joy. Alex would finally have his life back.

Alex holds his before picture surrounded by friends

After his surgery, Alex couldn’t wait to run and show his new smile to his classmates.

Alex plays football

Now, as she watches her youngest child play football with his friends, Kiptoo’s face is a picture of joy. “My son became more outgoing since his cleft was treated,” she exclaimed. “He is totally a different boy.”


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