A TEENAGER from Bosnia who was born with a facial deformity has had a life-changing operation thanks to the help of generous Echo readers.
More than £100,000 has been raised to get Stefan Savic, 15, the face he longed for.
Former soldier Wayne Ingram from Portland sparked the appeal when he met the youngster in the Balkans 10 years ago.
Earlier this month Stefan was flown to London to undergo a fourth operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
It marked the final transformation of Stefan’s face, after he was born with a block of bone in the centre of his face which pushed his eyes far apart.
Mr Ingram said: “Stefan is like a son to me and we want to thank all the Echo readers and Dorset residents who helped to make this possible. He told me it has been the best thing that had ever happened to him.”
Stefan’s family have even asked Mr Ingram to be godfather to the teenager, a move which steps away from Bosnian culture of asking a family member to fill the role.
Mr Ingram welcomed Stefan to Dorset when they spent time visiting those who had helped with the appeal.
Mr Ingram added: “He was born with a facial cleft that meant his eyes were nearly two inches further apart than they should have been and he had no real nose.
“He already looks completely different and when he removed his bandages everyone there started to cry with happiness.”
He added: “The British Army don’t just go into an area with guns and bullets, we think of cultural and religious beliefs and get to know communities.
“The area of patrol I was given led to me meeting Stefan’s father who was paid just €180 a week – nowhere near enough to pay for the operation.”
Fundraising efforts also took place in Bosnia raising £14,000 through a charity football match and other activities.
Stefan’s fourth operation was to reconstruct his nose and help his breathing and Mr Ingram said the treatment could not have been carried out in his home country.
Over the past ten years, funds raised have paid for Stefan’s reconstruction treatment and flights to and from the UK.
Dorset Echo editor Toby Granville said: “Once again Echo readers have shown their generosity by helping to raise this phenomenal amount for the Stefan Savic Appeal.
“This surgery has changed Stefan’s life and we would like to thank each and every one of you who has made this happen.”