Photo Credit: The Smile Foundation

10-year-old Emihle was overjoyed to receive surgery on her ears, as she was born with Microtia; she has had to endure bullying but hopefully, not anymore!



Cape Town, South Africa (28 May 2023) – The most wonderful thing about Smile Week, is the power it has to positively change the way children with facial anomalies and burn injuries feel about themselves, by helping them move beyond their physical differences and the emotional pain of being teased by others.

Commencing on 22 May 2023, Smile Week took place at Cape Town’s Tygerberg Hospital, where 14 children underwent surgery – most of which were cleft lip and palate repairs.

Of the children undergoing life-changing surgery, was little Emihle, a 10-year-old girl, who was born with Microtia.

Microtia is a birth deformity where the external ear is underdeveloped and ranges from a smaller ear to a completely absent ear. From birth, this disability has affected both Emihle and her mother, Emily, who was completely unaware of her child’s condition before she gave birth. When Emihle was born, Emily was heartbroken and overwhelmed with so many unanswered questions. This was emotionally taxing on her, as she had to deal with her child’s condition on her own, with little guidance and support – apart from that of her siblings who have been kind enough to help wherever they can.

Emily shares how living with such a condition has impacted her daughter’s life:

“People do not accept differences well. The looks and stares that my Emihle gets is so disheartening. Wherever we go, I get asked what happened to my child and why she looks this way. It is difficult to face this as her mother but there is hope and I am grateful for her operation that we have waited years for.”

Emily has had to find practical ways to help stimulate her child and manage her hearing impairment. For the past year, they have been using hand signals, toys and other innovative ways to communicate on a basic level to understand each other. Emihle has attended primary school in Hout Bay since Grade R and now lives with her aunt since her mother has been without employment.

The school psychologist advised Emily that her daughter does not hear well in a classroom setting and referred her to Tygerberg Clinic for assistance. She is able to communicate better when in a small group or at home, but due to her disability, coping and interacting in larger groups has been extremely difficult for her.

Her mom elaborates: “Emihle was teased terribly by other children at school. It was heartbreaking to see my child suffer like this. I am grateful that her principal did something about it. She explained to the school why Emihle is the way that she is and said that she should not be teased for looking different to other children. This has helped Emihle feel more comfortable going to school.”

Emihle’s surgery involved the reconstruction of her ears by using cartilage from her ribs. Not only will this restore Emihle self-esteem, but her wish to one day wear earrings like other little girls her age will also come true.

“Our relationship with Smile Foundation comes a long way. We are partners in making a difference in the lives of many children with facial deformities. The surgical operations performed yearly here at Tygerberg Hospital during Smile Week restore smiles (literally and figuratively) to children like Emihle.” Dr Matodzi Mukosi, CEO of Tygerberg Hospital.

“The sad truth is that most children tend to alienate a child for looking different from their peers, which causes deep emotional damage to that child. Through the life-changing surgeries that will be taking place this Smile Week – all thanks to the incredible support of the dedicated team of surgeons, medical professionals, and hospital staff of Tygerberg Hospital – we will be able to give these children a far better chance at living a happier childhood. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Smile Train, who are providing a grant and resources to reach many more children with cleft lip and palate and provide treatments.” shares Kim Robertson-Smith, CEO of Smile Foundation.

Coordinated by Smile Foundation, Smile Week is a full working week, during which surgeons, their assisting surgical teams, other medical professionals and hospital staff open their hearts and clear their schedules to perform reconstructive surgery on disadvantaged children suffering from physical anomalies and the emotional pain of such conditions. You can pledge your support for this initiative here.

To keep up the life-changing work of Smile Foundation, follow them on your favourite social media platforms:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Sources: The Smile Foundations
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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