Marikina City, Philippines — When Hanef Abdul Samad was born with a cleft lip or “bingot,” his mother saved as much money as she could to travel nearly 500 miles from the conflict-affected island of Mindanao to Manila to find help. She left her home, her family, and everything she had ever known for the slim chance that her son’s cleft lip could somehow be fixed. Shortly after they arrived in Manila, Hanef was lucky to be screened and scheduled for free cleft surgery by a medical mission group from the USA. All of her hopes had come true. Until the medical mission group suffered from internal problems and Hanef’s surgery was among those cancelled.
Hanef and many more who had been scheduled for surgery would not receive it as the mission group had to leave shortly after they corrected the problems that stalled their good work. Angry at the twists of fate that continually kept her son from a normal life, dejected and forlorn, Hanef’s mother continued on her quest to help her son with an even heavier heart. Unable to find work and watch her son, she reached out to a local charitable organization to help her get on her feet. The organization quickly referred her to a relatively new Smile Train partner, Marikina St. Vincent Hospital. Fearing further disappointment, she was very hesitant to bring Hanef in, but realized that for Hanef, she could never abandon hope.
Within days, Hanef received free cleft surgery under skilled surgeon Dr. Edmundo Mercado and a second chance at life. His mother was relieved of her fears and disappointment and with the help of a Smile Train Smile Grant and the local charity, they were able to begin the long journey home: promising to spread the word about Smile Train.
Having a permanent, local presence where partner hospitals can provide surgery year-round holds Smile Train to our promise to never turn a child away and ensures that temporary setbacks and timetables will not result in cancelled surgeries and lost hope.