Dr. Vicki Belo was smiling through her tears as children came one by one to offer her long-stemmed roses. She had met them when their faces were marred by orofacial cleft, a birth disorder that disfigured the mouth. Together with her team of doctors, the dermatologist performed surgical procedures to correct their cleft lip and cleft palate, and help build their self-esteem. They had returned to thank her and the Belo Smiles team for setting them on the road to their dreams.
TWISTED MOUTHS, WOUNDED LIVES
The owner, CEO and founder of the Belo Medical Group had been building houses for marginalized communities as part of her philanthropic bent. She worked with Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity before she was drawn to helping children who were born with an opening in the upper lip that extended to the nose or the roof of the mouth opened to the nose. “I felt this was something I wanted to do. It was within our expertise,” she said. “Also, I have a soft spot for children.”
A collaboration with Operation Smiles Philippines widened her reach. “I met Dee Zobel, who was the vice-chairman of Operation Smiles Philippines,” she said during the exhibit opening of Belo Smiles at the Fashion Forum. The exhibit showed photographs of the children before the surgery and their smiling faces after the procedure. Availing of the hospital facilities available to Operation Smiles, Belo Smiles has been able to hel