Lourdes was born in Yaruqui, Ecuador with a cleft lip and a rare condition in which skin was formed over her nostrils. Lourdes received six reconstructive surgeries when she was young, but the treatments stopped prematurely when her parents’ insurance company stopped covering her care.
Lourdes spent much of her childhood hiding away in her home. She shared, “I was very aware that my face was different from others, and I felt judged.” When Lourdes’ confidence was at its lowest point, due to incessant bullying, she dropped out of school.
Lourdes said that the first sustained period of happiness of her life came when she finally found love and married local handyman Jamie. Over the next 10 years, the couple had three children.
In 2014, Lourdes and Jamie’s fourth child, Estefania, was born with a cleft lip and palate. Seeing her daughter’s clefts flooded Lourdes with memories of her own childhood. She said, “Because of my past experiences struggling with cleft, I cried about it all the time. I was worried that she’d face the same hardships I had.”
At home, Estefania struggled to eat because of her clefts. Then, one day, Lourdes and Jaime saw a television advertisement with information about Smile Train.
The next day, they visited Smile Train partner Hospital de Día Niños de la Mano de María, which provided Estefania and her family with free consultation and counseling, and a few weeks later Estefania received a cleft surgery.
“We were a little worried about the surgery, but when we saw Estefania’s smile afterward, it reassured us and made us so happy,” said Lourdes.
Today, Estefania is an active five-year-old who loves to color, play, and show off her loving smile.
She has been enrolled in Smile Train-supported speech therapy treatment since 2016 and speaks with more confidence.
Lourdes is thankful that her daughter won’t have to experience the obstacles she endured. “I am very grateful to Smile Train because my daughter is alright now — she will study, be healthy, and get ahead in life.”