Transforming Faces Blog

2017 International Cleft Congress

May 19th, 2016 by


Transforming Faces and our longstanding partners at Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) have been working for more than ten years in India to provide quality cleft care. Based out of the city of Chennai, our partners have been able to reach out and provide cleft care services to children in the remote regions of Tamil Nadu in India, build capacity of local organizations working in health care and increase awareness about cleft lip and palate in the community.

Our partners have also been working to build networks and share cleft care best practices throughout India, and on a global scale.  Based on this strong work in the region,  we’re excited to share that Chennai was selected as the host city for the 13th International Congress of Cleft Lip and Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies in February 2017.

The International Cleft Congress takes place every five years and brings together cleft care professionals from all over the world. The three-day long conference provides a platform to exchange information, and facilitate dialogue to solve problems and identify opportunities in cleft care.

Our partners at SRU have been working tirelessly to make arrangements for Cleft 2017. Many members of our team are serving as part of the Organizing Committee in capacities like President (Dr. Jyotsna Murthy) and Organizing Secretary (Prof. Roopa Nagarajan).

As part of this Congress, Transforming Faces is proud to support the participation of cleft professionals from our partner countries who will have the opportunity to share their research, network and help strengthen their professional expertise. We look forward to sharing the stories and results from this Congress with you over the coming months.

Learn more about our work in India.


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Reflections from the Field: Nan Hudson

May 12th, 2016 by

This week’s blog features a guest post from longstanding TF Board Member, Nan Hudson. 

For 12 days in April, I had the privilege of travelling with TF to visit partners in Chile and Argentina with our new Executive Director, Ann Rosenfield, and Program Manager, Abdon Aguillon.  Our first stop was Santiago, where we met with the staff and board of Fundación Gantz, Chile’s foremost hospital for the treatment of children born with cleft lip and palate.

TF Team in Chile

Nan Hudson (centre) pictured with TF Executive Director, Ann Rosenfield and Gantz Medical Director, Dr. Carlos Giugliano

TF was sponsoring a training there for 13 dentists and orthodontic surgeons from throughout the region, where they were learning how to create and apply a NAM (the innovative nasal alveolar moulding device) for a newborn born with a cleft.  These staff were keen to learn and take back their new knowledge and skills to help children in their own communities, including as far away as Lima, Peru, and Tucumán, Argentina.

NAM Training (4)

While there, I watched a one-month-old boy receive a NAM, which covers the cleft in the palate and allows the child to feed normally. The moment it was installed and the mother provided a bottle of milk, that little guy ‘knocked it back’ so quickly; it was amazing and wonderful to see!  The staff and board of Fundación Gantz are impressive professionals with a profound commitment to the well-being of the children and their families, and I found it deeply humbling to watch them at work.

One of the families supported by Fundación Gantz

One of the families supported by Fundación Gantz

Our next stop was Mendoza, Argentina, where we were met by Sylvia Torres, a orthodontist who had been at the Santiago training.  She excitedly told us that she would be doing her first NAM in just a few days on a newborn, and she couldn’t wait to do it.  In Mendoza, we visited with the staff of two hospitals, and listened to the challenges facing them due to the complexities of the health system in that region.  TF will continue to remain in touch with them, supporting them in both training opportunities and overcoming the challenges of delivering comprehensive cleft care to their patients.

We spent the last few days in Tucumán, Argentina, where we support the work of Fundación Gavina.  Again, we met an impressive and dedicated staff team delivering the components of comprehensive care (medical, dental, speech, audiology, phonology, orthopaedics, psychological and social work) all in a caring and coordinated centre.  Team meeting at Gavina

On the last day of our trip, we met with the Minister of Health for Tucumán Province, Dr. Rossana Chahla, in the hopes that a long-delayed agreement between the Ministry and Fundación Gavina might be signed, enabling Gavina access to the paediatric work of hospitals in the province.  The Minister was pleased to expedite the agreement, extending it to cover all 23 provincial hospitals in the Province.

Tucuman agreement

Later that same day, we visited two children treated by Gavina in their homes, and understood more fully the immense challenges these families face, but hearing also their profound gratitude for Fundación Gavina.

I’ve been a Board Member with Transforming Faces for over a decade, and I continue to appreciate the quiet, enabling way in which our work supports dedicated and caring professionals in their home countries, deepening their capacity to offer the kind of care that transforms lives.  To see that capacity extended by one of our partners to others throughout South America was deeply moving, and I returned home with a sense of profound gratitude for the work of TF and the amazing people throughout the world with whom we work.  Most of all, it is worth more than words can describe to see, in the faces of the parents and the children, the hope and joy that this work has made possible.

Nan Hudson has been a TF Board Member since 2002 and currently chairs our Programs Committee. Read her bio here

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Beautiful Before & After: Fund-A-Need

May 10th, 2016 by

On Thursday May 26, 2016, Transforming Faces will host its Beautiful Before & After fundraiser. Beautiful Before & After is an annual celebration in support of children and adults with cleft lip and palate held at the BMO Conference & Event Centre (68th Floor, First Canadian Place) in Toronto.  The fun-filled evening will include canapés, an open bar and a fantastic silent auction.


Each year, the event aims to raise funds to support the purchase of a crucial piece of medical equipment for one of our international partners. In 2015, thanks to very generous support from event guests and donors, we raised over $6,000 CAD which was matched by a private foundation to purchase surgical equipment for our team in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Equipment 2016 (1) Ethiopia Equipment 2016 (3)

This year, our partners in Thailand have urgently identified the need for a tympanometer. A tympanometer tests for fluid in the middle ear which is the most common cause of hearing loss among children, and particularly prevalent among those with cleft lip and palate. If not addressed at a young age, patients with this condition are at risk of hearing damage or loss and resulting speech challenges.

Currently, our team at Overbrook Hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand relies on visual assessments to determine if fluid is present in the ears of cleft patients. Obviously, this leaves much room for error and increases the risk of permanent hearing loss. If detected early, fluid in the ear can be removed during the child’s cleft repair surgery which reduces the need for and cost of additional surgeries.

The cost to purchase a tympanometer is approximately $11,000 CAD. This medical device would support approximately 120 cleft patients per year, and an additional 120 general patients. The tympanometer could also be used to provide ear, nose and throat (ENT) support as part of TF’s existing mobile rehabilitation camps in northern Thailand and Laos.

Fund-A-Need in Thailand

 We hope you will consider supporting our Fund-A-Need initiative at this year’s event. If you’re unable to attend and would like to make a contribution, you can donate here.

Note that 100% of all donations to Transforming Faces go directly to our programs, thanks to a private foundation that covers our overhead expenses. Fund-A-Need donations will also be matched so your impact will be doubled!


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A Fresh Start for Seblework

May 4th, 2016 by

Seblework was born with a cleft lip and palate in a small town of Kolfe, near Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. He is the youngest child in the family and has two elder brothers. With no family history of cleft lip and palate, Seblework’s mother felt very distressed about her son’s condition. She remembers the day Seblework was born, and being unable to breastfeed her baby because of his cleft palate.

Seblework before his cleft lip and palate repair

Fortunately, the medical staff at Kolfe Health Centre referred Seblework’s mother to our partner hospital in Ethiopia, Yekatit 12. Here, Seblework’s mother received nutrition advice and was better able to feed her son. At Yekatit 12, Seblework also received his first cleft repair surgery.

Baby Seblework with his mother

In many cultures worldwide, a child born with cleft lip and palate is considered to a bad omen. This can be distressing for not only patients but also their parents and caregivers. As a result of these beliefs, families often feel ashamed and scared to take their infants outside. Seblework’s mother experienced a similar fear and did not want to take her son out in public. After Seblework received his cleft surgery, her fear subsided and she was able to interact with others without fear or shame.

Seblework’s mother has been very pleased with the cleft care services provided at Yekatit 12. She notes that she will bring her son in for all follow up cleft care interventions (e.g. speech, dental and orthodontic care) to help him have a fresh start.

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Check out our 2015 Annual Report!

April 28th, 2016 by

Thank you to everyone – our partners, donors, volunteers and friends around the world – who helped make last year a huge success! We hope you have the chance to review our 2015 Annual Report and take stock of the many ways you’ve helped close the gap in cleft care for patients and medical professionals around the world.

Highlights2015 Annual Report


Moving Forward

For details on these initiatives and more, download a copy of our 2015 Annual Report!

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