People called him “that guy with the cut lip.” For 33 years, that’s the way Wonder Madziwa from Zimbabwe, Africa was identified.

But he’s so much more than that. The bricklayer, who calls himself a very principles person, is also a good singer. He likes to watch movies, attend Seventh Day Adventist services with his family and play with his two young kids. He is a social kind of guy, someone who is open and likes other people – despite the fact that other people don’t always like him. “I got shunned because I didn’t look normal,” Wonder says. “When I mixed with other people it was so difficult to cope with my feelings. Everyone who passed my by asked ‘What happened? Were you beaten?’.”

The questions – constant questions – wore Wonder down and threatened to turn him into someone he didn’t want to be. “You could read the questions by the way people looked at me. I would respond but just being hushed. Or I would answer in a very rude way. If anybody would ask me in a sincere manner, I’d attempt to explain, sometimes with tears running down my cheeks. Socially it cost me. Nobody wanted to eat with me. I didn’t live a normal life.”

Wonder before surgery

The July 2011 surgical mission in Zimbabwe was Wonder’s second try for reconstructive surgery with Operation of Hope. In 2007, he’d traveled 300 miles from his home but reached the hospital too late. This year, he decided to try again. He arrived early for screening day. “I wanted to be the first one in line. So I got here at half-past six and waited at the gate until we were let in. I wasn’t even the first, either! And when I got a date for surgery, I was so happy. I never imagined how I’d look without this lip. But when the doctors said it would be easy to fix and they could do it, my imagination began to pick up.”

Wonder’s surgery took a total of three hours. In 3 hours, 33 years of a man’s life was forever changed moving forward. “When I analyze it myself, I think that mentally I used to live to only 85 percent. But now I will have all the confidence to live, to approach anybody, so now I can live 100 percent. They will respond to my questions, not my face. I won’t hesitate to go anywhere I want to go. I’m very confident now and have the great feeling like everyone looks like me. Operation of Hope has transformed my life.”

Wonder and His Wife, Two days after surgery

The first night after his surgery, Wonder slept with a small mirror held tightly in his hand. In the morning, Wonder joined the Zimbabwean floor nurses as they all gazed in awe at his new and different face. “The nurses smiled and told me I needed a new name. That my new name should now be Wonderful!”