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Cleft Repair Success Story is an Inspiration for Us All

Photos: Courtesy of Operation Smile

Born with a cleft palate and lip, Diego De La S overcame both physical and psychological setbacks to achieve success for himself and his community.

Global Smile Foundation (GSF) volunteers first met Diego De La S in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1996. De La S was only three months old when his mother brought him to see the team of medical volunteers. The hope was that they would help her baby. That year, De La S underwent a cleft lip repair and, a year later, a cleft palate repair. 

Since then, De La S has seen the GSF team every year for comprehensive cleft care, including speech therapy, dental and orthodontic care, psychosocial counseling, and two subsequent cleft operations; his final procedure being a rhinoplasty in 2017. The care that GSF provides for De La S and other patients in Ecuador is the same as a patient would receive in the United States: long-term, multi-disciplinary cleft care delivered by highly-skilled cleft experts.

From beneficiary to volunteer

In 2018, De La S earned a degree in social communications from the Universidad Politécnica Salesiana. He currently works at the Community Development Office of the Prefectura del Guayas, Guayaquil’s regional government office. He is also one of many GSF patients who has become a volunteer with Fundacion Global Smile-Ecuador. This is a sister organization that provides local support for the Foundation’s work. 

BEFORE AND AFTER: Diego was only three months old when his mother brought him in to be examined by GSF team. He received his life changing cleft lip repair not long after.

With the Foundation, De La S volunteers as a photographer during each two-week medical mission and at special events throughout the year. He is also a GSF Ambassador of Good Will. Recently, he delivered the keynote speech at GSF’s 2018 Anniversary Celebration in Boston, MA. He recounted his journey for the audience, saying, “Global Smile Foundation changed my life…I am where I am today because of Global Smile Foundation. So I want to give something back to my community in honor of what has been done for me.”

Giving back to the community

When asked about his role as a volunteer, De La S shared his unique perspective. “I understand their struggles, because I overcame the same hurdles. I want every child on the mission to forget about their fears, even if just for a little while, knowing that their life will forever change for the better.”

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