Paranaque City, Philippines — Rojan knows the suffering that can come with an unrepaired cleft better than anyone, which is why he now works hard to help other cleft patients.
"I make it a point to encourage other patients and share my experiences with them, especially to children who have the same condition I had," said Rojan.
Rojan J. Pajarin was born with a cleft lip and palate. While he had his cleft lip repaired as a child, he was unable to have his palate repaired until a few years ago. Since then, he has been working tirelessly to help others born with cleft at Smile Train partner Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation. This is his story in his words.
"In my childhood, being a cleft is no big deal for me. I did not care whenever people tease me or whenever someone imitated the way I speak. This is because I was an only child. And like other children, I was unaffected and did what I want. I felt the support of my family and other people in our barangays – they believe in me.
Unexpected changes happened in my teenage years. Each day was a challenge as if I was living a world full of strangers. I was unsure of who to be with and uncertain of who to trust. Most of those I met would surely tease me. I remember being called an idiot. Comments like that made me suffer and made it hard for me to connect to people. There were times when I felt down and I wondered how to rebuild my self-esteem. I knew that there are people who would support me but I sometimes doubted this.
But I continued to hope and believed that everything would be okay if I finish my studies. I finished my studies but I was unprepared for a bigger and more competitive world. I received a lot of rejections when I was applying for a job. One day, I felt lost and almost became convinced that this world is not for me. I was down with self-pity. I decided to go back to my hometown and become a fisherman like my father.
On my trip back to our province, I was dreaming for a group which could support and guide people like me – cleft and those with speech disability. I saw a cleft mission streamer in one of the hospitals in Daet and wondered if my cleft palate could still be repaired. Upon reaching home, my mother convinced me to inquire on that free cleft surgery. At first, I was hesitant but when the doctor explained to us who they are and what they do, I felt enlightened. I knew it was the answer to my yearning for a group who would heal me.
I was sent to a hospital with complete facilities necessary for my operation. I received the operation at the Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Paranaque City through the help of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation Philippines, Inc. (NCFPI). I also underwent speech therapy after the operation. Smile Train funded the surgery expenses.
For three years now, I have been employed as a patient care staff in NCFPI. I am continually amazed at how positive parents are despite the condition of their children. I think they are more positive than I am.
My views in life gradually changed. My fears were erased as time went by. I went back to Manila wanting only the operation but I realized that I was given more than what I wanted.
Today, I make it a point to encourage other patients and share my experiences with them, especially to children who have the same condition I had.”