A Young Filmmaker's Journey to Help Heal a Child's Smile

'Gwapa' follows two Filipino families on their journey to receive life-changing cleft lip surgeries.
A team of young filmmakers are sharing the story of two families struggling to give their kids a healthy future. (Photo: Sabina Padilla & Meg Pinsonneault)
Nov 29, 2011
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

It took a plane, bus and rocky boat ride to get filmmaker Meg Pinsonneault to Bohol Island in the Philippines. Meg and her team went to this tiny island to film Gwapa (Beautiful), a documentary about two families struggling for a healthy future.

Teodoro Bulabos and his wife, Violetta, have three children born with severe cleft lip and cleft palate deformities. The family lives in a tiny hut with no running water, electricity, or access to medical care. Lucy Alac has a similar story. Her daughter Irene struggles with mental challenges and suffers from facial deformities. These parents, Meg explains, "just want their kids to be happy and healthy."

Both of the families hope to receive life-changing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries from Faces of Tomorrow volunteers. Gwapa documents this journey and the dedication of the dentist, nurses and doctors who take these trips year after year.

Meg showing photos to Violetta and the kids. (Photo: Sabina Padilla)

There are 4,000 to 5,000 children born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both each year in the Philippines. In much of the country, Meg says, "Kids born with these deformities are growing up and living well into into their 30s or 40s without understanding that there is a surgery that fixes it."

The cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries will not only change the way the kids look, but it will also positively impact their health, their speech and their future. Kids that live with these facial deformities are often shunned from the rest of their community.

Meg is hoping to change this with Gwapa. She and her team shot footage this year and are planning to return to the Philippines in January to document the journey of the families once more. You can help them complete this film by donating to their cause here.

Here is a moving sneak peek at Gwapa:

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