By: Leslie Scrivener Feature Writer, Published on Fri Apr 29 2011
Six-year-old Yeabsra Hailmarim, wearing Easter chick elastics in her braids and an eager smile, strides to the front desk of the downtown Delta Chelsea Hotel and says: “My name is Yeabsra. How are you?” It is her only English.
If anyone is staring, she doesn’t notice.
She and her mother have arrived from Ethiopia, and up on the 15th floor their room is scattered with welcoming gifts. Yeabsra wraps her arms around the stuffed bunnies, turns the pages of the books and then examines herself in a full-length mirror. Delighted with what she sees — new clothes, a purple track suit and yellow T-shirt — she laughs and hops from side to side. In her homeland they call this being “full of popcorn.”
She does not appear to see in the mirror what most of the world sees: a harsh deformity, the middle of her face flattened and undefined, the space between her eyes too wide and two fleshy horn-like bumps — unprotected portions of her brain — protruding from her forehead.
Yeabsra and her mother have come to Canada for an operation to repair this extremely rare facial cleft, a procedure too complex to be performed in Ethiopia. A small Toronto charity, Transforming Faces Worldwide, has brought them here, while the Herbie Fund is paying hospital costs.