Tadellu’s Story: The Light of a Smile

13 May 2016 | Smile Train

Tadellu lived among the shadows for the first 13 years of her life. Born with a cleft lip on an isolated farm in Ethiopia, she was shunned by her entire community who believed she was cursed.

Tadellu before

Tadellu’s own mother was afraid and embarrassed to let her socialise and hid her away inside their home.


But one person never gave up hope; Tadellu’s father Tullu. He always believed her lip could be repaired and set out to make it happen, ultimately hearing a Smile Train ad on local radio.

Tadellu and her sister

A Smile Train sponsored cleft surgery brought Tadellu out of the darkness and let the light of her new smile shine brightly.

Tadellu pouring coffee

Tadellu smiles widely as she takes part in her family’s daily coffee ceremony, a traditional ceremony centered on friendship and respect. Before her surgery, Tadellu was unable to participate because her cleft prevented her from blowing on the coals to keep the fire going. Now friends and neighbours stop by the family’s home to watch Tadellu roast and carefully grind the coffee beans to brew the village’s best cup of coffee.

Tadellu hugging family

Today, Tadellu is 19 and her radiant smile beams on her face. After years of being an outcast she now proudly attends community gatherings, goes to school, and hopes to fulfill her dream of becoming a banker.