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Australian nurse Val Smith-Orr finished the English National Board postgraduate course in burns and plastic surgery at the McIndoe Burns Unit of the Queen Victoria Hospital in London.
Her first visit to the Philippines was in February 1991. With a team of highly qualified medics, she offered free surgery for indigents born with cleft lip and palate.
Smith-Orr continued to visit the country twice a year until 2003, screening patients and offering long term-treatments to those who already had surgery.
Everything changed in February 2006 when she returned and found herself staying in Zambales for six months to collect data for her master’s research at the University of Queensland on feeding infants with cleft lip and palate in a developing country.
It was during this time that she treated Monalisa, the 10th child of a family with little means. She was severely malnourished with bilateral cleft of the lip and palate. At three months old she weighed just 2.4 kilos.
Smith-Orr vowed to save her life and did more than that. She became the licensed foster parent to Monalisa, who’s now a healthy and beautiful 9-year-old.
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