Rojan J. Pajarin was born with a cleft lip and palate in the Philippines. When he was five years old, Rojan received surgery for his cleft lip from a visiting mission group, but his cleft palate remained untreated and he continued struggling with his speech. Rojan said that he spent much of his childhood not speaking so that he wouldn’t be bullied.
Rojan was determined to get a college education and obtain a better life for himself, but, as his father was a fisherman with an irregular income, he also needed to support his siblings. Despite these challenges, Rojan achieved his dreams and graduated with a business management degree, while working as a pedicab driver around town.
Rojan’s dreams for a better life continued to be unfulfilled because, despite obtaining his degree, he was repeatedly turned down at job interviews due to his speech. Rojan realised that he needed his cleft palate treated in order to get employment, and, luckily, he found Smile Train.
In 2008, Rojan received his Smile Train funded cleft palate surgery, and then went on to attend weekly speech services sessions as part of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation Philippines’ (NCFPI) and Smile Train’s comprehensive care programmes. After months of hard work, he dramatically improved the quality of his speech and he could be easily understood. As an added benefit, the staff at NCFPI were impressed with Rojan’s work ethic and how compassionate he was with their younger cleft patients. They were so impressed, in fact, they decided to hire him on as a team member.
NCFPI reports that Rojan brings positivity and energy to their patients, as well as providing an excellent example of the benefits of cleft treatment. Rojan said, “I meet with 75 to 100 cleft patients every week, and I tell them to let go of the past to prepare for the future. I still have the scars and memories of bullying that stir my emotions, but there have been many more people who have helped and loved me, which counters the negative feelings. The love I’ve been shown has completely changed my outlook on life.”
To help pay the “love” forward, Rojan has become a dedicated member of Smile Train Team EMPOWER — he’s competed in many endurance competitions to raise funds for Smile Train. His next goal is to compete in IRONMAN® Subic Bay and raise enough to fund 12 cleft surgeries. As he prepares for the race, Rojan says, “My life has been greatly changed because of the surgeons, speech pathologists, dentists, and orthodontists NCFPI provided through Smile Train. So, on race day, I will endure a four-kilometre swim, 180 kilometres on a bike, and a 42-kilometre run, but my mind will only focus on the children I’ll empower.”
If you would like to find out more about Rojan, or to donate to his efforts please visit his fundraising page. If you are interested in turning miles into smiles, visit our Smile Train Team EMPOWER page to learn more and sign up for a race today.