Elizabeth Lukokun was born and raised in the outskirts of Lodwar. She has never seen a classroom door meaning she has never had the chance to learn even how to read and write her own name. All she grew up knowing was basket knitting and nomadic pastoralism. At a tender age of just 15, she was married to Akure Loripa and together they had 6 children and suffered one miscarriage. 

Young Ekalale is the 6th born of the family and to them he was different from the rest of the children. “When Ekalale was born, he was considered a curse by the rest of the family and the entire community,” says Elizabeth. At this point she says the entire community turned against them ever since she had the miscarriage something she has never known how it happened and what triggered the miscarriage. Ekalale is the only child in the family history to be born with a cleft palate. His mother had never seen anybody else in such a condition in her community. For this, she and her son faced a lot of humiliation and condemnation from the community, a situation that forced her son to frequently miss classes. 

A group of social workers from Missions of Hope International visited Ekalale’s school and met him. They were concerned about the child’s situation and promised to help him out. They flew Ekalale and his mother who was expectant with their 7th child, from Lodwar to Nairobi. On arrival they were advised to visit Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital. They would later learn that cleft palate was treatable and this did not come to them as only good news but also as a surprise to them.

“When we were told that Ekalale was going to be treated we were happy. But what shocked us is when we were told that they were going to do it at no cost,” said Margaret of Missions of Hope International. She added that, “we did not believe the news because everybody knows that a simple surgery is costly. This one was not going to be just a simple surgery but one which we expected to spend millions of shillings in paying once it’s done.” Ekalale was taken to Gertrude’s surgical ward and when he was stretched out to general ward after the operation, his mother almost collapsed seeing her son ‘beautiful’ than she had never seen him before. She was smiling all through and could not wait to get home. “I am just waiting to get home for everybody to see Ekalale. They have always mocked and laughed at us but now the story is going to change. I can now smile again back home in Lodwar.” 

She added that, “I would urge Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital through the Foundation to continue doing this great work. If it were not for you (Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation), Ekalale would still be in the same situation and would never even finish his education bowing down to mockery. Thank you very much Gertrude’s and Smile Train. What you have done for me I will never forget. Thank you very much.”