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20 Years of Hope: Cui

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In 1986, a tiny baby named Cui was born with a very wide bilateral cleft lip. As a result, her birth parents abandoned her in a rural field shortly after she came into the world. Thankfully, a man passing by that day found Cui bundled up near the dusty road. When he saw the tiny baby had been left all on her own, he gently picked her up and took her home to his wife. The couple decided to keep the little girl and raise her as their own in spite of the fact that they were extremely poor.

This couple adored little Cui, despite the local villagers saying she was cursed and someone to be publicly shunned. Cui’s new parents raised her with kindness and lots of love, but they were never able to afford for her to have the life-changing cleft lip surgery she needed. She lived her entire childhood feeling like an outsider in her community, staying indoors and pouring her heart into studying and reading books in the safety of her small home. Still, she dreamt that someday she could face the outside world with a normal appearance.

Teen girl with cleft lip

Cui’s Cleft Repair

When Cui was 19 years old, she and her father came to one of our cleft exchanges in China, traveling many hours with the hope that she might finally receive the healing she needed. Her father very quietly asked our team if she was too old to have cleft surgery, and Cui told us shyly that she knew it was probably impossible for her to be fit into our busy surgery schedule. Of course, we reassured Cui’s father that it was not too late for his daughter to have cleft repair surgery, and our team made room and performed her operation. The entire team was deeply moved by her tender spirit.

Following her surgery, Cui sent us the beautifully-written letter below:

I am almost completely recovered now. I believe that it will not be long until I’m living freely like other ordinary girls. This is my dream for so many years. Thinking about possibilities and a future life, I am very happy and grateful from the bottom of my heart because I know all these changes were given to me by warm-hearted people.

I still don’t know my own biological parents. It was my adopted parents who picked me up from the road when I was abandoned who gave me a new life. They are very poor, but I can feel their love. Recollecting the old times, I got used to harsh ridicule, cold eyes, and snobbish comments from ignorant bystanders. Weeping and sleeplessness during dark nights are still vivid in my memories.

Year after year, life has taught me a lot and made me stronger and now more optimistic. Even though I had never asked my adopted parents about getting a cleft operation, I knew that they were anxious but had no ability to help me. I could only accept this as my fate. I am like other girls who have sweet and beautiful dreams. Just before I went to see your team, I dreamed that I would one day meet good-hearted people. This miracle appeared unexpectedly and came to me in an unbelievably fast way. To tell the truth, it was nothing more than trying my luck when I went to your team.

My past life experience taught me that miracles only appear in storybooks and that I should not expect them to happen to me. But everything went smoothly. Thinking about all this now, I still feel that I was in the dream. The pain and burden in my heart have disappeared; only a happy smile is left.

Several months after Cui’s cleft repair surgery, we caught up with her and her father once again and celebrated that happy new smile.

Teen girl with repaired cleft lip stands with 3 adults in China

The First College Graduate In Her Family

From the first time we met Cui, we all knew that she was extremely intelligent. All those years of quietly studying inside had given her a brilliant mind. We encouraged her to sit for the grueling “gaokao” college entrance examination in China, a multi-day exam given just once per year. The gaokao is often called the most pressure-packed test in the world, but we knew that Cui was incredibly smart and were confident she would pass. She finally agreed to register for the exam, even while telling us it would be impossible for her to ever attend college since her dad made less than $10 a month. We told her to humor us and take the exam anyway.

Girl with repaired cleft lip stands with 4 others in China

Cui soon received a formal letter saying she had been admitted to a university in far western China to study accounting and business. Thanks to some amazing education sponsors, we were able to tell Cui to pack her bags. With both extreme excitement for a new adventure but also real anxiety about leaving her small home for the first time in her life, Cui boarded a train on her own.

We’re thrilled to say that she quickly became the top student in her class, and, in fact, she didn’t even need our financial assistance after the first year because the university awarded her multiple academic scholarships. Her dad was so incredibly proud of his daughter, telling us through his tears that he couldn’t believe his family’s cycle of poverty was being changed: his daughter was going to become the first college graduate in his family’s history!

Girl wearing black and white striped shirt standing in front of a blue background

Cui, 18 years later

It has now been 18 years since that day when we were able to fit Cui into our surgery schedule for her cleft lip repair. Now, she is 37 years old and happily married, with a healthy little boy who is the light of her life. She and her husband operate an eyeglass store, and she is incredibly thankful to everyone who changed her life so completely.

Mom and dad with son outside in China

Cleft lip surgery can completely change the course of an individual’s life. It can change everything for their family as well, and our Unity Initiative got started with families like Cui’s in mind. With a little help from LWB and our supporters, countless impoverished families have been able to stay together AND have their children receive the life-changing medical care that they could not afford. Our donors have opened so many doors to a brighter future!

Mother and son stand in front of wooden door
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