Transforming Faces Blog

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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Advanced Speech Training in Ghana

April 21st, 2016 by

Every day, Transforming Faces is working to ensure that children born with cleft lip and palate in developing countries have access to cleft care services. An important component of our comprehensive approach is to build long-term, sustainable solutions in our program countries through training programs for local medical staff, investing in infrastructure and supporting local fundraising initiatives.

This January, Berhane Abera, speech pathologist for our cleft care program in Ethiopia attended the Advanced Cleft Speech Training held in Kumasi, Ghana. Conducted by the renowned Dr. Catherine Crowley from Columbia University Teacher’s College, this three-day long training session featured a combination of classroom lectures, and practical patient assessments and visits.

Training 1

This training initiative aimed to strengthen the skill sets of young speech therapists so they are better equipped to support cleft lip and palate patients with speech disorders. Like Berhane, most of the trainees were speech assistants from different parts of Africa including Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana. Berhane notes how this created an environment conducive to sharing ideas and lessons learned.

Through this training, Berhane learned new speech therapy techniques, and had the opportunity to try out those techniques on-site with patients. She also learned how to better identify patients in need of a secondary surgery, and the type of surgery required. She notes that the training helped her “to identify my strengths and my weaknesses in providing therapy for cleft speech patients”.

Back in Ethiopia, Berhane is excited to try out some of these newly learned techniques. She is confident that she will be able to deliver even better speech therapy support thanks to  the strategies and techniques learned through this training.

Transforming Faces supported Berhane’s participation in this Smile Train initiative. In addition to this, Carol Scheffner Hammer, PhD, Yana Pleshivoy, MS CCC-SLP, and Darcy Abrams, MS CCC-SLP, supervised and assisted with the training. A huge thank you to everyone who made this initiative such a huge success!

Training 2




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SRU Receives Award at Indocleft Conference

April 19th, 2016 by

Transforming Faces is so proud of the remarkable work that our partner, Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) has been doing to deliver quality cleft care in India. The communities that TF and SRU serve in Tiruvannamalai and Cuddalore are remotely located and have limited health infrastructure. As a result, access to cleft services is made possible through community-based rehabilitation (CBR) workers who travel to patients’ homes for follow up cleft care. With the help of this model, patients with cleft lip and palate are able to receive ongoing care such as speech support, oral and dental care and hearing evaluations without having to travel long distances.

The CBR workers us an innovative mobile application called E-MPOWER, to track patient progress through mobile phones. With the help of E-MPOWER, CBR workers can document demographic information, track distance travelled, send the results of speech screening procedures, and transmit video and audio samples to specialists at the hospital to help assess patients’ progress and alter their treatment plans as needed.

In the recent past, our partners have started using a mobile phone enabled video otoscope during home and community based visits. This simple but useful technology helps the CBR worker view the patient’s ear canal and ear drum during community-based aural screenings. Any anomalies can then be easily identified and hospital referrals can be made as necessary.

India Hearing Identification

Dr. Akilan Rajendran has been working with SRU and Transforming Faces to implement this otoscope technology in the field.  He  attended the 15th Annual conference of Indian Society of Cleft Lip Palate & Craniofacial Anomalies (Indocleft Conference 2016)  in Chandigarh from March, 25-27, 2016, where he presented this technology to delegates coming in from all over the country. Dr. Rajendran also had the opportunity to learn more about progress that cleft care professionals from other parts of India have made.

We are so proud to share that SRU’s otoscope technology received the best poster presentation award at the conference. Congratulations to Dr Rajendran, and our partner SRU for this remarkable achievement!

Best Poster Award

In India, Transforming Faces has partnered with speech and dental specialists at Sri Ramachandra University to provide care to rural families in the Thiruvannamalai region. Our program focuses on improving access to cleft lip and palate care in remote, rural areas of India through speech and dental camps, and our E-MPOWER mobile application.

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Spotlight on Karen Sparks

April 15th, 2016 by

This National Volunteer Week, Transforming Faces (TF)  would like to acknowledge our Fundraising Committee for their ongoing contribution to our annual Beautiful Before & After event. One of the key players on this committed team is our Committee Chair and longstanding volunteer, Karen Sparks.

Karen has been lending a hand with Beautiful Before and After since 2008.  She first heard out about TF from our former Executive Director, Esteban Lasso. Esteban’s passion for the cause appealed to Karen so much that she decided to get involved with the organization herself.

What continues to motivate Karen is the way TF makes a longlasting impact in the lives of children with cleft lip and palate and the fact that 100% of donations go directly to programs. Karen loves to get other people interested and involved in the cause: “It is very heartwarming to see others become engaged”, she notes.

Many years back, Karen also had the opportunity to travel with TF to our longtime program in northern Thailand:

Karen Sparks pictured in Thailand

Karen, far right, pictured with other TF partners in Thailand

“Visiting (TF’s) partner in Thailand brought the program to life, not only seeing the children and how their lives have been transformed, but gaining a deeper understanding of the range of services that TF funds, and the complexities of taking the children through total rehabilitation from surgery to orthodontic care to speech pathology.  The local partners work magic in bringing the children from remote areas to the caregivers.”

A huge thank you to Karen and our other Fundraising Committee members for their ongoing support. You are true TF Champions!

From April 10 –April 17, TF is celebrating National Volunteer Week by introducing some of the wonderful people that work behind-the-scenes to make our work a success. 


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Meet Varadharajan from India

April 13th, 2016 by

Mr Varadharajan

Transforming Faces is supported by an outstanding global team of volunteers who devote their time and energy to helping transform young lives!

Varadharajan is one of the many TF volunteers in India who supports our community-based speech programs. Varadharajan, a former government employee, runs an orphanage in India. He supports TF’s partner, Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), by providing a free space to host speech camps for children with cleft lip and palate.

Varadharajan has been involved with SRU’s speech-language program for nearly a decade. The Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu, where Varadharajan lives, lacks adequate health infrastructure. As a result, many cleft patients have been unable to access ongoing rehabilitative care, including speech therapy. When SRU began providing speech therapy in the region, Varadharajan decided to help in any way he could.

According to Varadharajan, children with cleft lip and palate often experience hopelessness about the future when cleft care is not available. However, receiving treatment for this condition leads to a sense of confidence and hope. It is imperative to have cleft care facilities like those provided by SRU to ensure that children with cleft lip and palate get the care that is required.

Mr Varadharajan 2

This National Volunteer Week, TF would like to acknowledge the work of volunteers like Varadharajan who have helped us provide comprehensive cleft care in India over the last 10 years. Varadharajan notes that the Tiruvannamalai district where he has been working with SRU has been described as “cleft free” and is perceived as a model district for this kind of community-based intervention. Thank you to all our volunteers, like Varadharajan who helped us make this possible!

Varadharajan expresses a heartfelt thanks to all the TF supporters in North America. He notes that supporting TF and SRU means that you are giving children with cleft lip and palate a second chance in life: “thank you for lighting the candle of joy and hope in the life of  children with cleft lip and palate.”

From April 10 –April 17, TF is celebrating National Volunteer Week by introducing some of the wonderful people that work behind-the-scenes to make our work a success. 


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