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TBI Blogs: How Doctors and Support Workers Came Together to Help a 3-Year-Old Girl Born with a Cleft Lip

A miracle has taken place in Rapar district, one of the most backward areas of the Kutch region in Gujarat. The cleft surgery of three-year-old Hansa has brought back smiles to not only the little girl. but also her parents.

Since birth, Hansa faced the issue of a cleft lip. Due to this, she couldn’t speak properly, and faced problems with eating and drinking as well.

Hansa belongs to the Parkara Koli community, and lives in the Sujapura vand (hamlet) in Fateghad village, in Rapar tehsil of Kutch district in Gujarat.

Comprising mainly of poor and landless families, Rapar till date does not have an efficient education facility for children. Some communities are further marginalized on caste, class, and gender, and are deprived of their rights to equality. The state of children and women is the worst here. Due to acute financial crises, parents are often forced to take their children to work with them. Although they wish to send their children to school, they are unable to do so, due to lack of availability of schools in nearby areas.

The Koli family is one such family which has been working hard to make ends meet despite these odds.

Hansa was born with a cleft lip.

Shankarbhai Koli and his wife Ramilaben are parents to five children—four girls and a boy—with Hansa being the youngest. The family survives on meagre wages earned by Shankarbhai, who works as a temporary labourer and often switches jobs. His total earning of ₹3,000 isn’t enough to make ends meet. His wife Ramilaben too pitches in to help at times, working in the neighbouring fields.

Though Hansa’s condition bothered both of them, the parents couldn’t do much. With such low wages, they could hardly manage the daily expenses of their house. The girls too used to stay at home and take care of the younger ones and help their mother with the household chores.

In the village, all the children go to school when they are six years old, but none of Shankarbhai’s kids went to school as he was barely able to manage their daily expenses. The daughters used to help their mother with the household work and take care of their younger siblings.

Even though Hansa had a cleft lip since birth, none of the relatives or neighbours would treat her differently. They would show their concern for Hansa who, being a cheerful child herself, would usually play with her siblings at home. Hansa’s parents also did not treat her any differently than any of their other children.

The constant questioning of relatives and society regarding Hansa’s marriage started bothering the couple, even though she was merely three years old.

Hansa with her siblings.

In India, daughters are often still considered as a burden since their birth, and Shankarbhai already had three girls. Having yet another girl whose face was damaged due to the cleft lip gave the couple sleepless nights.

It was due to the efforts of Dharmendra Hothi, Project Coordinator with Gram Swaraj Sangh (GSS), that the plight of Hansa first came to light. Dharmendraji, as he is popularly called, came across Hansa six months ago when he saw her playing in the area.

“When my partner Dalpatji and I first met Hansa, we were taken aback by her plight and the condition of her face. We decided that we should do whatever it takes to help change her situation,” he says.

Dharmendraji provided the family with details of the doctor who they could visit to get Hansa operated upon. But the family was reluctant, so Dharmendraji himself contacted the doctor and discussed Hansa’s case with him. The PHC doctor, Dr. Pragnesh Prajapati, informed the GSS members that the lip surgery was only possible at Gandhidham, which was 50 km. away. He also informed them about the ‘Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Yojana’ scheme, under which Hansa could be treated free-of-cost. Yet Shankarbhai and his family were in two minds.

After a lot of effort, the GSS team members were able to convince Hansa’s parents to go ahead with the operation. The anticipation of a better life for Hansa finally convinced them.

Once the family was on board, an appointment was booked for the operation. Dr Pragnesh’s driver offered to pick up and drop Hansa and her family for the operation at Gandhigram.

The operation went well, and after five days, the stitches were removed.

The happiness of Hansa’s parents on seeing their daughter had no limits, and even the GSS team was spellbound! At last their efforts had paid off!

Hansa with her father after the surgery.

Shankarbhai is elated with the results, “We are very happy now that Hansa is ‘normal’. She can lead her life without any issues. Also, we are very thankful to GSS and their team for helping us and changing the life of our daughter.”

Ramilaben couldn’t hold back her tears while saying, “I am very happy that my daughter is treated. She looks very beautiful now!”

Dharmendraji, who was satisfied with his team’s efforts, said, “We are happy that we got an opportunity to change Hansa’s life. Such successful cases motivate us to perform even better!”

The family says that Hansa can now eat and drink properly too. They claim that the neighbours too have begun to praise both her and her parents, and she is often invited to many social events in the village. Looking at the impact of the surgery on Hansa, even the family’s near and far relatives, as well as neighbours, are happy with the way things have turned out for her.

Kumar Nilendu, General Manager, Development Support, CRY, observes that Hansa’s story is that of hope and triumph over all odds. He says, “The efforts of CRY partners were outstanding, but the most endearing part is the efforts made by the government doctor at the PHC and other doctors as well. These stakeholders together made possible what would have been ‘unthinkable’ for the poor parents. This actually proves CRY’s conviction that joint efforts by civil society and government are the need of the hour, and this will go a long way in ensuring the rights of Indian children.”

You can help more efforts like this, by donating to CRY and its partner organisations here.

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CRY - Child Rights and You is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood - to live, learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its 200 partner NGOs have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 2,000,000 underprivileged children, across 23 states in India. For more information please visit us at www.cry.org