Badjao boy with cleft palate given reason to smile

HSBC Philippines
Globe Telecom Smile Train
Seven-year old Johnder and his mom holding an old photo of his condition before the operation. Photo from Globe.

A Badjao boy with cleft palate was given a reason to smile by a partnership project between Globe Telecom and Smile Train, a charity organization that provides corrective surgery for children.

Johnder was born in the Muslim Badjao tribe on the islands of Sulu where cleft lips, a cut on the lip; cleft palates, a hole in the roof of the mouth; and other disabilities are a common sight due to lack of access to healthcare. His parents would have been content to live a quiet life in their little coastal community until one day, they heard that they could get free surgery to fix Johnder’s condition.

The family moved to the outskirts of Davao City, building their own home on stilts, this time on trash-filled canal waters connected to the main road by flimsy man-made bridges reminiscent of their coastal roots. Their living conditions have been difficult, with Johnder’s father earning only a small living selling knock-off signature sunglasses, but amidst all these challenges, his mother recounts their story with light and hope in her eyes.

Now a seven-year-old boy with a newly-operated lip who just started to attend school, Johnder no longer lives in fear of being bullied by his classmates. Instead, he races across their wobbly bridges every day, excited to go to school with his siblings and friends.

Twenty more children like Johnder were given new hope by Globe Telecom and Smile Train, an international children’s charity whose vision is to ensure that every child born with a cleft can lead a full and productive life.

From the goodwill of its employees, customers, and partners, Globe was able to raise enough funds to support comprehensive cleft care for at least 20 children through Smile Train.

“Globe always makes it a point to give back to the communities so we continue to partner with different non-government organizations to help in social and environmental causes. This prompted us to tap Smile Train as a strategic partner in the promotion of good health and well-being especially among disadvantaged Filipinos,” said Miguel Bermundo, Director for Globe Citizenship and Advocacy Marketing.

“Smile Train is grateful for being a charity partner of Globe. By providing customers and their employees an opportunity to support our cause, many Filipinos born with a cleft have been given a second chance at life,” said Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Smile Train, Area Director, Smile Train Southeast Asia.

At present, one in every 700 babies worldwide are born with a cleft lip and/or palate, forcing many of them to live in isolation while having difficulties in eating, breathing, and speaking.

However, cleft repair surgery is simple and transformation is immediate, thereby, encouraging Smile Train to provide resources that will empower local doctors in over 90 countries to offer 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own communities.

Catriona Gray, the fourth Filipina Miss Universe and an advocate for children’s welfare, celebrated her birthday in January 2020 by crowdsourcing funds to give Filipino children corrective surgery through Smile Train.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Smile Train and Globe for partnering in providing children with cleft lips and palates more reasons to smile!

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.