11-year-old girl helps those with birth defect - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

11-year-old girl helps those with birth defect

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ATLANTA -

Fixing a cleft lip and palate is a relatively easy fix in the United States. But in other parts of the world, getting the needed surgery is nearly impossible. Andi Kezh, 11, is now making sure all kids have a reason to smile.

"My face is always like I'm smiling, I'm shocked, I'm pretending to cry. I'm very expressive, I guess," said Kezh.

When looking at pictures of herself when she was younger, she describes herself as cute. But not everybody agreed with her. She was born with a cleft lip and palate.

"Lots of people, when I was younger, they stared at me and I've always had that feeling, 'why are they staring at me,'" said Kezh.

It can be treated successfully with surgery, especially when performed in early childhood. Kezh has had 11 surgeries.

"Its' scary but after you get used to it, it's less scary," said Kezh.

Getting her cleft lip and palate corrected wasn't enough for Kezh. A photo in a magazine made her want to do more to help other kids with the same birth defect as her.

"My goal at first was to get one surgery which was $250. And by about two days later, I had gotten enough for two surgeries. My goal kept rising and rising," Kezh said.

Kezh, through the organization Smile Train has now raised enough money for 56 surgeries -- $14,000. She's helped kids in underdeveloped countries get the surgeries they need. She loves getting letters from them and seeing their pictures.

"It feels so emotional when I see them, because it just makes me feel so proud that I have done that for them, and I've given them a second chance at life.

Kezh is still a happy and healthy middle school student who loves soccer. And she is still smiling.

Kezh says her surgeries haven't changed her. "I don't feel like there's a big change inside me. On the outside there really is, but inside I'm just the same person I was before," said Kezh.

Kezh is to have more surgeries to correct the last of some breathing problems she's been having. For more information on how you can help Kezh in her mission to help every child in the world with cleft lip and palate in the world, visit the sites listed below:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Andis-Smile-Page/121154257897704

and

http://www.andismile.com/home.html

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