The story of a smile
Happy Friday, and happy World Smile Day! To celebrate, we’d like to share Sharifa’s story with you.
Sharifa is one of many children whose smiles have been restored through cleft surgery at CURE. Thanks to the CUREkids program, we’ve been able to follow her story since she first came to CURE Niger in May.
It’s incredible to see the difference one surgery can make. It certainly made quite a difference for Sharifa! Here is a portion of her journey at CURE Niger, as told by Jamile Lopes, our CUREkids Coordinator in Niger.
May 20, 2014
‘”I’ve never known someone who hasn’t insulted me because of my lip.’ Comments like that don’t leave you very quickly; that was Sharifa’s response to our question about how many supportive friends she has. The more we spent time with her, the more her shyness wore off to reveal her true colors. Brave, spunky, and willing to speak up for herself, Sharifa has had to endure quite a lot. After being born with a cleft lip, the teasing and beating have been incessant, so much so that she doesn’t even go to school. We asked her what she’d want to learn if she did go, and she simply said, ‘Zero.’ After reading our puzzled faces, she elaborated with, ‘Zero, un, deux, trois, quatre…’ She wants to learn numbers. It’ll serve her well too, since she aspires to be a clothes tailor.”
May 25, 2014
“It is encouraging to see Sharifa playing and having fun during the weekend. She tried to teach one of our staff members how to play with the rocks, but nobody is as fast as her. Monday is the big day!”
May 26, 2014
“Sharifa was giggling around, teaching her grandmother how to take pictures with a phone right before heading to the operating room. Our brave girl wasn’t anxious at all about the surgery! Thank you for praying for her.”
May 27, 2014
“Our brave girl hasn’t complained about pain, and she’s keeping her sassiness alive and going crazy on peoples’ phones. Now that the nurses have taken the bandages off, we can see how everything is looking. It’s swollen for sure, but we can already see the great transformation. She is having a hard time wearing arm braces, which are necessary to keep her from touching the stitches, but she can hardly sit still, so pray for her! Our staff gave her paper and crayons to try to release some of her energy. Maybe we will have a masterpiece tomorrow!”
May 28, 2014
“Sharifa is definitely not happy with her arm braces, and the frown she gives makes it obvious. So we tried our best to make her smile, until she said, ‘Stop! You have to wait until I am completely healed so I can laugh!’ She is eating well, and using her time to color some pictures and rest. Every once in a while, she gets up and goes to the mirror hanging on the ward wall to look at her beautiful face. All the swelling cannot hide the joy we see in her eyes.”
May 30, 2014
“It is a great day! Sharifa was discharged, and now she doesn’t have to wear the arm braces anymore. What a relief! Besides that, for the first time, we saw her playing and interacting with other kids. She has already started a new life! The nurses will check on her everyday for a few more days, so keep praying for total healing and we will let you know how she is doing.”
June 2, 2014
“Sharifa had a good weekend at ‘case de passage,’ a house here at CURE Niger where long-term patients or people who live far away can stay while waiting for their follow up appointments. She’s gone to see the nurses everyday to check the healing process, and everybody is happy with the results! Tomorrow she will probably get her stitches out, and she said can’t wait to go back to her village and show off her new smile.”
June 3, 2014
“Sharifa’s anxiousness didn’t let her sleep much, and early this morning she was eagerly waiting to get her stitches out. Of course, she wasn’t afraid of the scissors and said that it didn’t hurt at all. She is making new friends at the ‘case de passage,’ and tomorrow we have a treat for her. We are going to give her some clothes! It’s a shame we didn’t capture her smile when she heard that… what girl wouldn’t smile about that?! Keep praying for her as she gets ready to go home!”
June 6, 2014
“Sharifa is a new girl! When she first got here, she would hide her face all the time, but now she asks us to take pictures of her and make funny faces. She has made friends with other kids, and little by little, she lets her strong personality dominate the environment. We love this kid.”
June 9, 2014
“Sharifa cannot wait to go to school! If you leave a notebook and a pen where she can see it, she will grab it for sure and start ‘writing,’ then you find your notebook with pages and pages of scribbles. Today she made a great effort to copy some numbers and the result was beautiful! She is talking a lot and hugging our staff all the time, trying to show some love because she knows she will be leaving soon. She will be so missed here, but we’re incredibly excited for what’s next for her!”
June 10, 2014
“And off they go! Sharifa and her grandma left today, but not before they thanked everybody and asked for God’s blessing upon all of us. Grandma wanted to know if Sharifa would be able to do some chores now, and was happy to know that yes, she could grind wheat and help around the house. Sharifa wasn’t that happy about it, so grandma started talking about how stubborn our girl is (as if we hadn’t noticed!). Sharifa said that she will start school as soon as possible; she is so confident now. Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement. We hope to see her in one month.”
July 7, 2014
“Look who was hanging out with us today! Sharifa came for her follow-up, but spent way more time chatting with her old friends than with the nurses. She was playing shy today, but her grandma told us that everyone in her village was amazed how beautiful she looks! Sharifa said nobody makes fun of her anymore, and now she can participate in the village social life. Last week, for example, she participated in a ‘koubaeyn,’ which is a wedding tradition when all the women and children go outside with music to welcome the bride and share a meal. We are so glad to see that she is doing well!”
September 30, 2014
“As usual, Sharifa came to see the doctor for a few minutes and entertained us for hours. She has lost weight, and her grandmother said it is because she had malaria, but Sharifa showed us her hands to feel the calluses, result of hard work in the field, and she blamed the work. ‘If you can see that I lost weight, give me food!’ she said. And that was the end of our cookies! Once she would not let us work, we gave her a job to do: to learn how to write her name. She loved to connect the dots, but would get mad when we told her to write it by herself. The doctors and nurses were happy that she has done the massages to soften her lips. They told her to keep doing it, and if she has any problem, to come back to see us. For now, she is good to go and is a vivid example of God’s healing!”
World Smile Day has a mission: “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” We would love to be able to help more kids like Sharifa smile. Your acts of kindness enable us to do that. No matter what kind of surgery is required, healing always brings a smile to a face that has often seen far too much sadness.