When Akekapop was born last year to his farmer parents, his arrival was greeted with worry. The younger of two children – his older sister is 13 – Akekapop was born with a cleft lip that his parents thought might earn the little boy teasing at school, which would give rise to an inferiority complex. Members of the family – who had never dealt with a cleft lip before – attributed the deformity to the mother taking painkillers during pregnancy for her legs, or to bad luck. No one took photos.
His parents earned money from their cassava and rice fields, gathered up the 200 baht apiece needed to make the 70-km bus trip to the hospital, where they were able to consult with the Operation Smile Mission and meet other children with cleft lips like Ake’s. After a relatively easy surgery, Akekapop can now smile easily and accompanies his parents everywhere they go. Making up for lost time, they now take many photos of Akekapop. Akekapop’s father, Samai, attributes Akekapop’s happiness to the medical volunteers and Operation Smile team who enable children born with cleft lips to become like everyone else.