Stella likes to grab new things and take a closer look. At only ten months old, she’s eager to discover the world. But at the moment, living in Russia and born to Armenian migrants, not all aspects of it are within her reach. Since her parents do not yet have Russian citizenship, it has been difficult to access free, state-run healthcare, and the surgery she needs to correct her cleft lip is simply unaffordable for them. Her father is the family’s sole breadwinner because her mother stays at home to look after their two children. His salary also supports his parents, who live with them.

It came as a great relief to discover that Smile Train could fund Stella’s cleft lip surgery. Getting the operation done as early as possible in life means that she is less likely to experience speech problems and should be spared from feeling different to other children when she starts attending nursery school. Fortunately for the family, Smile Train has a well-established partnership with the local Volgograd City Hospital. Due to the high prevalence of congenital deformities in Volgograd Oblast, this hospital has been designated as the primary destination for such cases.

This lively portrait of Stella was used within a photo essay that served as publicity for Smile Train. Human interest stories like this one are vital for the organisation’s fundraising efforts, demonstrating the transformative impact of its work for families’ and children’s futures. Studies have proven that we’re more likely to give when presented with a personalised story; statistics alone do not evoke the same compassionate response within the brain. Visuals have the power to create an emotional connection.


How much is a smile worth?

Public health, children

Smile Train

Volgograd, Russia

Camera settings
16mm, ISO 640, 1/100, f/8.0