Sabaitip ‘Pum’ Sangpeng
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After having five sons, Sabarn was eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first daughter. She had always wanted a daughter, and she would spend her days on the small farm in Sisaket daydreaming of dresses and hairbrushes. Although the family was poor, she and her husband were excited for this new addition to their family and could not wait to see her beautiful face. It was only once she was born that they saw her smile was not the one they had imagined, and that little Sabaitip was born with a cleft lip and palate.
Even though her smile was not the one they had expected, she was no less beautiful to her parents who loved her at once; and although the strength of their love was enough to shelter their baby girl, it did not protect them from the fears that followed as they struggled to feed her and worried about her future. Sabarn would spend nights holding her tiny daughter, trying to feed her through a syringe because she could not drink milk like other babies. She grew tired taking care of the infant who could never get enough milk and was always hungry, but the happiness of having a daughter gave her strength. She would look in her daughter’s face and feel so much love, but also be filled with sadness at the thought that others might never see how special and beautiful she was.
As the years passed her physical struggles to eat got easier, but the new emotional struggles got harder and harder. Like every little child, Sabaitip wanted to have fun and make friends, but the neighbors would not allow their children to play with her. Starting school did not help to ease the loneliness either as the other students rejected her. She would have to spend her days alone doing the only thing that made her happy, dancing. Sabarn would watch her daughter dancing by herself, happy as she saw her spin and smile, but inside she was afraid that her daughter would never know the happiness that she had hoped so much for her to have.
What made it worse was knowing that there were operations that could help her, but the family’s hard work on the small farm and her father’s second job did not make enough money for them to afford the surgeries she would need. It was not until she was five years old that her parents were finally able to help her by going to Operation Smile’s mission at Sisaket Hospital to receive her free surgery. The ride to the hospital took over two hours on the back of a motorbike, but once they arrived and saw so many others with the same problem, they were instantly filled with hope at no longer being alone.
Sabarn can now look at her daughter filled with happiness and excitement instead of fear and sadness because the rest of the world can finally see the beautiful daughter that she has been so proud of since the day she first held her. She has hope that little Sabaitip will no longer have to spend a lifetime dancing alone, but will grow to have the confidence to dance in front of everyone and be able to live the life of happiness that she has always wanted for her only daughter.