Behind the Smiles: Dr. Preciosa Bento

Our Program Assistant for Southern Africa reflects on what working at Smile Train is really about

Dr. Preciosa Bento is Smile Train’s Program Assistant for Southern Africa, based in Angola. She is committed to connecting children with clefts across her country with the care they need and vigorously raising awareness to change the public perception of clefts. In a country where superstitions about children with clefts and their mothers abound and not everyone has access to quality healthcare, both save lives.

In Fall 2022, she came to New York to visit Smile Train HQ for the first time. While here, she shared the story of one patient who will stay in her heart forever. After hearing it, we’re sure her story will touch your heart, too.

Because I am a mother, I will always remember Alegria. Her mother, she never had a baby [before], and when she was able to have a baby, the baby was born with a cleft. The family didn’t accept her or the baby because of the [cleft], but she was so happy about having a child that she didn’t look at the baby with bad eyes…. The baby didn’t have a name yet. When she turned nine months, after she had surgery, [her mother] finally gave her a name — Alegria. It means “joy”!

It's a special story for me, because that’s a baby that will always be loved. And her mother didn’t look at her just because of the lip, but she looked at her for the joy that she brings to her life. So I believe that’s what working at Smile Train is about. We look to the patient, we look to this child, as more than the lip. We look at them like the joy of life, the joy of somebody’s life, the joy of a family.