“Ugly” wasn’t her true identity

“I’m sorry if my daughter hides her face from the camera. She often gets called ‘ugly,’” Christyn’s mother, Arlyn, shared.

On November 5th, 2018, empty chairs filled the ground-floor lobby at Tebow CURE Hospital, waiting for our usual mix of orthopedic clinic patients along with cleft lip and palate patients attending our cleft clinic. We had bubbles ready to be blown, and the toys were set out. Our storytellers made sure that our batteries were charged and our cameras were ready to capture the start of cleft camp. Soon, we witnessed an overflow of patients and their families, caregivers, and siblings who tagged along to support the healing journey of their loved ones. That morning, we met with a total of 36 cleft lip and palate clinic patients

One of the patients waiting was Christyn.

Christyn gave us a rare, shy smile after we spent some time with her in the ward.

We make a point to spend time getting to know our patients and their families, but there are times when I do not know how to communicate with our patients who come from all over the island, and so I remember some wise words once shared with me: “Smile when you don’t know what to say.”

A smile is indeed a universal language; our staff speaks it, and it comes right back to us from our patients and their families.

But what if someone refused to smile because “ugly” has become her identity?

Arlyn told us more about her daughter Christyn: “My daughter is beautiful. She’s a good kid and loves to dance. Her favorite dance move is a combination of a twirl where she eventually lands on a split! She could hardly wait to go to school, and she asks us to buy a pen and pencil so she can draw––it’s her favorite thing to do! My hope for Christyn is to be able to go to school and not get bullied by anybody.”

Thanks to our partners at Free to Smile, 28 screened patients had surgery. The Free to Smile Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and sustaining comprehensive, high-quality surgical and dental services for poor and underprivileged children and adolescents. The team from the United States––Scott, Jason, Stavan, Dave, and Riley––worked together to perform cleft lip and palate surgeries, transforming deformities into brand new smiles.

Christyn was one of the patients whose smile was transformed through surgery.

The team from Free to Smile––Jason Dashow (from Alaska), Stavan Patel (from Louisiana), Dave Wilson and Riley Kitzmiller (both from Michigan) with Scott Hanhart (from Ohio)
Dr. Dave and Nurse Riley from Free to Smile worked together with our Tebow CURE OR staff as to transform Christyn’s smile.
Christyn, before and after her surgery

Thanks to the organization and hard work put in by our social worker, Joy, the cleft camp produced beautiful results. Christyn’s newly transformed smile is a testament to its success. Her smile not only reflects her true beauty but will become a language of love and kindness, especially to those who once called her “ugly.”


Photo of the Hope Kim Pranza

About the Author:

Hope Kim serves as a Storyteller at CURE Philippines, which means she gets to play with kids, chat with their parents, and put their stories into pictures and words for the world to see. She was first involved with CURE U, CURE’s University program, at the University of Florida, as a student advocate of CURE’s healing stories. Her passion for CURE’s mission brought her back to her motherland, meeting her husband and lifetime editor-in-chief, Josiah. Through the stories she captures, she hopes to see and serve people as Jesus did and inspire others to do so as well.

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