Award of excellence goes to our partner, Fundación GAVINA

January 26th, 2017 by

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Award of excellence to our partners


We are very proud of our Argentinian partner, Fundación GAVINA, who has been awarded special recognition from the Tucuman Provincial Legislature for the second year in a row! The local provincial government praised Fundación GAVINA for their excellence in the non-profit sector and applauded the impact of their work.

Transforming Faces has been working in Argentina for over 15 years. Our current partner, Fundación GAVINA, provides comprehensive cleft care services, including surgery, speech therapy, dental care, nutritional support and counselling for family members.



   – Gaby Reinoso (left) and Monica Galvan (right)           accept the award.

Along with a certificate of distinction, they were awarded monetary support of 120,000 Argentinian Pesos (roughly $10,000 CAD) as a contribution to continue to provide multidisciplinary care for patients with cleft lip and palate.


Congratulations Fundación GAVINA!


Exciting updates from the TF Family – introducing our new Executive Director, Hugh Brewster

January 19th, 2017 by

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The new year at Transforming Faces is off to a great start, and we wanted to take a moment to update you on changes and new additions to our team in Toronto.

We are delighted to share that Hugh Brewster (M.Ed) has stepped into the role of Executive Director! Hugh most recently served as World Vision’s National Manager for Canadian Programs, leading a team that partnered with over 100 diverse non-profits through grants and capacity building. We know that Hugh’s passion for leadership, transformational development and organizational capacity building (not to mention his great sense of humour and knack for making brewed coffee!) will be an excellent fit for the team, and for this stage of TF’s growth.

Hugh Brewster

Check out our Q&A with Hugh below and get to know him a little better!

Welcome to the team, Hugh! Tell us a little bit about what drew you to Transforming Faces. 

Thanks! I am pleased to join such a strong and dynamic team. I am very impressed by TF’s holistic, multidisciplinary, and long-term approach to supporting children born with cleft lip and palate. TF’s commitment to true partnership with our local teams of professionals is also inspiring. It is hard to beat the motivation of stories of children experiencing marginalization due to their cleft palate, moving forward with confidence and good health! Coming to work each day is a joy.

What are some of the past experiences and learnings that you will be drawing from and bringing to the table in your new role? 

I loved collaborating with organizations that are passionate about the well-being of children across Canada. The international context of TF’s work poses unique opportunities and challenges, while some elements of effective partnerships are consistent around the world: demonstrating and sustaining impact with participants; growing organizational capacity; and effectively telling stories of transformation. I recently helped found a small non-profit that engages Indigenous youth in healthy and active living. The absolute necessity of earning a community’s trust and being responsive to local aspirations and solutions is definitely a learning that I treasure.

What are you looking forward to in these first few days in your new role?

I am grateful to be able to travel to the Cleft 2017 Conference in Chennai India. This is an important gathering of practitioners, academics and non-profit partners from around the world focused on the well-being of patients born with a cleft palate. TF is thrilled to have representatives from its international partners to join a strong contingent of Board and staff in this opportunity to learn, network, and plan for the future. I have already heard great things about our partner leaders, so I am looking forward to meeting them in person shortly. 

Finally, can you share with our partners and supporters a fun fact about yourself? 

I love keeping active through the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. I was privileged to join Canada’s contingent that competed for a World Championship last summer in London, UK.

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to Hugh!

We also have a few other team updates to share:

  • Our talented Program Manager, Abdon, has recently accepted the role of Program Director. He is the primary contact for our partners in South America and brings years of experience (as well as fluency in many, many languages!) to the role. Congratulations Abdon!
  • Courtney, who started out at TF as our communications guru, has shifted to a full-time focus on programs! Relying on her extensive international experience and outstanding leadership skills, she will be working closely with some of our partners in Asia and Africa.
  • We also welcomed our new Communications Specialist, Cari, who started with us in January. You’ll be hearing from her a lot on our blog and social media channels in the future!
Abdon, Courtney, Cari

                                         – Abdon, Courtney & Cari –


We look forward to a bright year ahead with a strong, dedicated and talented team.


Ontario doctor’s 3D Cleft Palate Simulator is making headlines and transforming the way we teach cleft palate repair

January 12th, 2017 by

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Dr. Giuliano & Dr. Podolsky at the two day workshop in Santiago

Dr. Dale Podolsky’s credentials are nothing short of extraordinary. He’s a medical resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Toronto, with prior degrees in mechanical engineering and physics. And to top it off, his innovative new 3D Cleft Palate Simulator has recently been making headlines! Drawing on his unique skill set, he’s revolutionizing the way we teach one of the world’s most common surgeries – cleft palate repair in infants.

Transforming the way we teach cleft palate repair surgery

Dr. Podolsky spent two years working to create a 3D Cleft Palate Simulator, a true-to-life model of an infant’s mouth that improves the way surgeons around the world can practice cleft palate repair surgeries. For many years, this surgery has been taught using Styrofoam cups, which is problematic considering the incredibly intricate procedure of cleft lip and palate repair, especially in very young patients.

“The high-fidelity cleft palate simulator represents a paradigm shift in cleft surgery training, providing the opportunity to practice cleft surgery without compromising patient safety,” explains Dr. Podolsky.

This advancement is so essential because cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth anomalies in the world. So common, in fact, that according to the US Census Bureau a child is born with cleft lip and palate approximately every two and a half minutes. The condition affects the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth, which can impact a child’s appearance, speech, teeth, eating, hearing and ability to develop socially.

Building capacity of TF’s partners in Chile

Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (1)


Dr. Podolsky travelled with Transforming Faces to Chile in December 2016, where he hosted a two day workshop with our local partners at Fundacion Gantz, located in the country’s capital, Santiago.

Podolsky notes:

“A landmark trial for the simulator was conducted in Santiago, Chile at Fundacion Gantz in collaboration with Transforming Faces. Sixteen surgeons from the surrounding region had the opportunity to use the simulator in a unique setting, demonstrating its efficacy and the feasibility of conducting similar training programs around the world to enhance the learning of this challenging procedure.”

The workshop covered the anatomy of the palate and an overview of the 3D Palate Simulator, and included discussion with the participating surgeons about the Chilean context and experience with cleft palate surgery. This was followed by two rounds of practicing with the simulator! Each of the 16 surgeons performed a palate surgery using the simulator, taking an average of about 2 hours per surgery.

Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (3)

Supporting innovative projects like these is an important part of our mandate at Transforming Faces. We are thrilled to have been able to bring Dr. Podolsky and our partners in Chile together. The cutting-edge technology of the 3D Palate Simulator, combined with our partners’ expertise, should prove to have a tremendous impact on the patients we reach in local communities.


Cleft Simulator Training at Gantz (4)


Stay tuned for more updates, and in the meantime you can check out other articles on the 3D Cleft Palate Simulator here:

And for our Spanish friends:

GAVINA Recognized by Argentinian Provincial Government

January 13th, 2016 by

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We are thrilled to announce that our partners in Argentina, Fundación GAVINA, have been acknowledged by the local provincial government for their dedicated work in the non-profit sector. GAVINA was one of roughly 20 highly reputable Argentinian foundations that were awarded a certificate of recognition in a public ceremony that took place in December 2015.

GAVINA was also awarded 100,000 pesos, equivalent to roughly $10,000 Canadian. The organizations selected were cited as some of the most important and renowned groups in the province.

Public award ceremony in Argentina

GAVINA representatives with certificate of recognition

At Transforming Faces, we are so proud to partner with such skilled, dedicated cleft care teams around the world and see all their hard work recognized.

Learn more about our global partnerships.

Health & Education Day in Peru

December 8th, 2014 by

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Recently, our Peruvian partner program kusiROSTROS hosted its 4th Annual Health and Education Day for families of children with cleft lip and palate. 

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The purpose of the event was to bring the local cleft community together and raise awareness about the importance of a comprehensive approach to cleft care. Once again, it was a huge success with roughly 200 children and 200 parents and caregivers in attendance. The fun-filled day included face painting, a drawing and painting contest, live music, and arts and crafts classes for parents. New patients also had the opportunity to get health evaluations in each cleft care discipline including: surgery, nursing, dentistry, speech therapy and psychology. 

Health and Education Day took place at one of our Community Rehabilitation Centres (CRCs) in San Martin de Porres, a community in Peru’s capital city. Currently, Transforming Faces and kusiROSTROS have established five CRCs around the periphery of Lima to ensure families of children with cleft have access to quality and comprehensive cleft care close to home. 

DSCN4907According to kusiROSTROS Director Maria Teresa Torres Morales, “the parents were very happy to see a Comprehensive Care Centre become a reality for people with cleft lip and palate.” KusiROSTROS has also recently launched an exciting partnership with the teaching hospital at Cayetano Heredia University (UPCH). The state-of-the-art UPCH facility now hosts one of CRCs and serves as a Dental Referral Centre for more complex cases. 

 Learn more about our Peru programsDSCN2147 (2)