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Facing up to life (2)

By  Liu Zhihua  (China Daily)

10:48, May 09, 2012

Her drooping eyelids and thin eyes, together with a flat nose, made her look odd.

She says even relatives of her adopted family would make fun of the way she looked. And at middle school, when she had a crush on a boy, he told her to stay away from him.

Zhang quit school at age 13. "I was always the ugliest kid, very ugly," she says. "I saw no future in schooling. My family was poor, so all I wanted was to make some money for plastic surgery to make myself look presentable."

Even so, she found that job opportunities were limited because of her appearance and all she could find was work as a chef's assistant or cleaner at small restaurants, earning about 600 yuan ($95) to 800 yuan a month.

Eye surgery would cost about 3,000 yuan, while a nose operation would require at least 8,000 yuan, Zhang discovered. It was way beyond her means.

Zhang didn't give up on her dream, however, and came across information about Rainbow China when she searched online about plastic surgery.

"It felt like I won the lottery when they told me I was selected," she says.

About 35,000 children in China are born with cleft lips every year. That's one in every 600-700 births, according to Operation Smile, a US-based nonprofit.

Deformed ears, birthmarks and drooping eyelids are the other most common genetic deformities in China, especially in rural areas, says Xiu Zhifu, president of the Chinese Union of Plastic Surgery Doctors.

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