A NON-PROFIT organisation in New York is offering free plastic surgery for low-income children with facial deformities, raising questions about the power of bullies.
Only some of the children who apply to the Little Baby Face Foundation are responding to being teased. Among them is Renata, 15, who has been homeschooled for the last three years after she could no longer take the cruel comments from her classmates, the US Today show reports.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,'” Renata says. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
Renata and her mother read last year about the work of the foundation, when teenager Nadia Ilse’s story was publicised. Renata’s mother was one of hundreds of people who contacted the organisation after seeing the story. “I tried convincing myself that I am fine the way I am, but I just don’t believe it anymore,” Renata wrote in her application letter.
The use of cosmetic surgery to address bullying has some experts concerned, including New York psychologist Vivian Diller, who believes it is more important to instigate zero tolerance of bullying, and encourage the acceptance of difference.
For Renata’s mother, the surgery is akin to rectifying any other sort of medical problem a child might have. “Parents correct kids’ teeth with braces to make their teeth straighter,” she says. “They’re still the same kid on the inside, but, unfortunately, people are judged on how they look.”
Doctors at the foundation also dispute they are running an anti-bullying organization. Thomas Romo, the director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, runs the foundation, which was started in 2002. Mr Romo has treated children with deformities all around the world and wanted to bring that idea home to the US.