A Smile Changes Everything
Education and Advocacy Antônia Sâmia Menezes Sales is a 12-year-old girl who lives in an isolated village in northern Brazil.
Antônia was born with a cleft lip – a facial deformity that can be corrected by a surgery that takes as little as 45 minutes. But the cost of such a surgery was far out of reach for her impoverished parents.
Antônia learned to live with the pain of rejection. She is a sweet, bright girl but few children were willing to get close enough to find that out. Then great news came from a relative in the city of Fortaleza. Operation Smile was coming to conduct a surgical mission.
“It all started when my aunt told me about a commercial she had seen on TV; then I got very excited because I knew that, from that time on, my life would change,” Antonia said. “I believed in my destiny.”
“It all started when my aunt told me about a commercial she had seen on TV; then I got very excited because I knew that, from that time on, my life would change, I believed in my destiny.”
Antônia and her dad walked 15 miles across rutted dirt trails to reach the main road. From there, it was a 90-minute bus ride to the city.
“It was hard not having my mom come with me, because she was pregnant, but my dad was always with me,” Antônia said
“When I was younger, my mom had taken me to the hospital, but it didn’t work out. When my dad took me again, it worked out.”
When they finally reached Operation Smile’s surgical mission site, they discovered that hundreds of children were already waiting for help. Antônia prepared for another rejection. Instead, she was selected for surgery. She was beside herself with joy when she saw her new face for the first time—and hasn’t stopped smiling since.
In a letter to Operation Smile, Antônia wrote: “Today, I’m a very happy person because I got operated. I would like to thank each one of you, with all my heart, because you’ve made my first dream come true and I hope one day I’ll be able to have my second dream come true, which is to have my own house, but I’m already very thankful for having gotten operated. My life has totally changed.”