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Hope for girl born with hair covering half her face

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana Thami, then aged 8, cries while her father describes to a journalist her daughter's isolation from other children in their village, before Bhawana underwent surgery in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Feb. 28, 2012.

Bhawana Thami was born with a rare condition that left half of her face covered with hair. Without treatment, the moles that caused the hair to grow could have become cancerous, The European Pressphoto Agency reports.

When photographer Narendra Shrestha first met Bhawana in February last year, her father explained the trauma that the condition had caused her. People in their village in Nepal had called her names like monster and witch to her face, he said.

As her father told the story, tears welled up in Bhawana's eyes, Shrestha later recounted. It was at that moment that he took the photo above.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana looks at herself in a mirror for the first time after her operation at Model Hospital in Kathmandu on March 9, 2012.

Within days Bhawana underwent her first phase of plastic surgery, which was supported by the charity Child Workers in Nepal.

"As she recovered, right after the bandage was removed, she was given a mirror and she didn't let go of it for fifteen minutes," Shrestha recalls. "She just kept looking at herself."

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Kaluman Thami takes Bhawana for a walk around Dusikharka village on Sept. 12, 2012.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana stands in front of her teacher and schoolmates during a class at the local school in Dusikharka on Sept. 13, 2012.

Bhawana returned to her village and began to find acceptance from the villagers who had shunned her. On a visit in September, Shrestha saw her playing a full part in activities at her school and witnessed the warmth of her family life.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana poses with her family next to their home in Dusikharka on Sept. 13, 2012.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana poses for a portrait on Sept. 13, 2012.

In February of this year, Bhawana had a second operation that completely removed the hair from her face. She will need to undergo a third procedure when she turns fourteen years old.

Bhawana's story is one of hope, Shrestha says, and he no longer approaches her just as a photographer: "It’s a different attachment that I feel towards her and her father now, and I cannot detach myself from them, not yet."

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana lies on a stretcher in an operating room at Model Hospital in Kathmandu on Feb. 20, 2013.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Bhawana and her father smile from a bus window on their way back to their village after completing the second phase surgery in Kathmandu on Feb. 27, 2013.


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