Hello and welcome to Smiles from India! This blog is about my gap year (between high school and college) as I live in Guwahati, Assam, India. I am working for Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org), which is a non-profit organization that repairs cleft lips and cleft palates. I am also helping the rest of the community working with the Pratyasha Foundation (http://www.facebook.com/pratyashafoundation). Enjoy and keep smiling!
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
At the Operation Smile center, I am trying to collect stories of patients who have been affected by their cleft lips or cleft palates in significant ways. With the help of the child-life assistant, Menakshi, I am hoping to gather stories that show how much a surgery can help children in Assam and all over the world.
Last week, Menakshi came to find me to say that I MUST interview this 9-year-old girl and her uncle. With the help of Menakshi as the translator, the uncle and I talked and this is what I learned.
Renuka Ghatowar is, like any nine-year-old girl, intelligent, playful, and ready to love anyone and everyone. Most 9-year-old girls go to school, make friends, and play with their family. Not Renuka. Renuka has had to fight to receive love, fight for a caring family, and fight for a fair life.
Renuka and her loving uncle.
With four siblings, she is the second oldest and only one with a cleft lip. When her alcoholic father is home, he beats her up because of her cleft lip. Renuka’s Uncle took her away from her family because, in his own words, “I did not feel good about it.” Although the uncle is married and has two kids, he decided to take in his niece in so that he can provide everything he possibly can. Through the Accredited Social Health Activist program (ASHA), he discovered that Renuka could have cleft lip surgery for free at the Guwahati Comprehsive Cleft Care Centre. He jumped on the opportunity right away.
The uncle told me that Renuka really wants to go to school. She attended kindergarten at the age of 6 but when she was pulled out of her father's home her schooling was interrupted. Regardless, the school was not very accepting with regards to her cleft lip. The uncle’s goal for Renuka is that she go to school. Renuka is very excited about returning to school and being able to do what other 9-year-olds do.
Renuka sporting fairy wings.
When Renuka arrived to child-life (the space that patients stop by before surgery: here they learn about what will happen in the operating room etc) after a four-hour travel from Nagaon, she was so excited for surgery. She was aware of how much better she would look after going to sleep, and could not wait to see the results. Renuka has given love her whole life, and now it is time to be on the receiving
end of the love game.
The after photo (a little bloody but that's normal).
She got surgery on Friday, and I went in Saturday morning to take a photo of her and say hello. She jumped out of her bed when she saw me, waving and practicing her wink, which I taught her the day before. I pointed to the lip and said “tunia,” which means beautiful in Assamesse. She nodded her head energetically and kept winking.
Renuka will be back on Thursday for her one-week follow up. I will be sure to write an update and provide a follow up photo.