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  1. ITV Report

Life-changing surgery gives gift of smile to young girl

Charity worker Ian Campbell pictured with young Filipino girl Darweena. Credit: Ian Campbell

The day a man from Northern Ireland cycled past a young Filipino girl born with a severe cleft palate has led to a new smile and a life changed forever.

Darweena often hid her face because of her condition, but her chance encounter with charity worker Ian Campbell – who runs the Belfast-based charity Ten Foundations, helping vulnerable children in the Philippines - resulted in the help she needed.

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“I don’t know why, but I just thought I’d turn round and go and have a wee word,” Ian recalled.

“She just moved me – there was something special. She walked around with a little towel in her hand and when she was talking to anybody, she would put it in front of her mouth. It was just quite moving.”

Ian was moved to see the little girl having to cover her mouth when she spoke to people.

On a mission to make a difference, Ian set about trying to find a doctor for the then 12-year-old, finding out that it would cost £1,500 for reconstructive surgery.

He then crowdfunded to raise the money and people in Northern Ireland responded generously.

The moment Darweena was told she would be able to have the surgery proved hugely emotional.

“Floods of tears,” Ian said. “She was in tears, I was in tears, her mother and her granny …”

The news of life-changing surgery brought floods of tears for Darweena and her family.

On her 13th birthday, Darweena headed to Manila and, just three days later, the change was incredible.

“She said she was just completely overwhelmed by it whenever she first looked in the mirror,” Ian said, adding that the result was indeed life-changing.

While Darweena does face more surgery, she already has big plans for her future - starting with getting back to school with a smile.

Reconstructive surgery has made a huge difference to Darweena, gifting her a smile.