Happy Social Work Month!

March 1st, 2014 by

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March is Social Work Month!

Parent Support GroupWhen a baby is born with cleft lip or palate, it’s vital that the attending medical team offers parents immediate support and information on care options. 

Social workers and psychologists help new parents address any challenging circumstances or emotions they may be experiencing. For older children who have gone without cleft treatment, counselling helps overcome any negative experiences and helps them adjust to transformation.

In Ethiopia, as in many developing countries, the social work profession is still in its infancy.

However, the team at Yekatit 12 recognized the importance of social work for guiding patients and families through the treatment process and for equipping children with tools to adapt to school and community life.

Recently, a volunteer team from Toronto, including Farah Sheikh, Clinical Social Worker with SickKids and Adjunct Practice Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and TF Medical Advisory Committee Volunteer, visited Ethiopia to assess the team and provide training. 

She was able to assist the Ethiopian team with their social work efforts. 

“I had the opportunity to help facilitate the Parent Support Group for the Cleft lip and Palate (CLP) program at Yekatit. The mothers and children were inspiring,” Sheikh said. “I met the most amazing parents, most who travelled from remote villages to Addis – so that their child could have a CLP surgery.” 

“The two main struggles are nutrition – children with cleft palates cannot create suction and therefore cannot breastfeed or drink from a traditional bottle, the other is the cultural stigma associated with a CLP,” she added. ”CLP is very stigmatizing, families can be isolated, many keep their children hidden until the surgery has happened – to protect them from hateful words. Most children with unrepaired cleft lip and palate do not attend school as the stigma and bullying is so severe. The long term psychological effects can be devastating.”

This young man received his cleft palate repair at 18yrs old. He completed University and now has a great job with the government. He is just one of the many determined and inspiring people I was able to meet.

“This young man received his cleft palate repair at 18 years old. He completed University and now has a great job with the government. He is just one of the many determined and inspiring people I was able to meet,” said Sheikh. 

The teens, Heirut (Social Worker) and I.

“These are the inspiring teenagers I got to spend time with during a teen support group I helped facilitate,” said Sheikh. 

Farah, far left, and Hirut Mengistu, far right, are pictured with patients. Hirut divides her time at Yekatit 12 between social work and speech therapy. She leads parent group discussions, provides counselling and intake services.  

Photos courtesy of Farah Sheikh


LIVES TRANSFORMED THROUGH MEDICAL TRAINING IN ETHIOPIA

February 13th, 2014 by

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Transforming Faces (TF), a Canadian charity that provides free multi-disciplinary cleft lip and palate care through local partners in developing countries, recently co-ordinated a medical training trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Canadian volunteers from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and University of Toronto.

Support from TF’s donors does not only fund surgeries and rehabilitation for children with cleft lip and palate in developing countries, but also provides training opportunities for local medical teams.

The volunteer team included:  Farah Sheikh, Clinical Social Worker with SickKids and Adjunct Practice Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and TF Medical Advisory Committee Volunteer; Dr. Christopher Forrest, Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery and the Medical Director of SickKids Centre for Craniofacial Care and Research; and Bryan Tompson, Orthodontist and Division Head of Orthodontics at SickKids.    

On January 12, the volunteers travelled with Laura Lewis-Watts, TF’s Program Manager, to meet with the local team, give lectures to medical residents, and provide recommendations to optimize team care, treatment plans and clinical care for all patients.

“We are happy that our volunteers were able to guide and train the local team in Addis. It means a lot to us that they share our passion for comprehensive cleft care,” said Lewis-Watts.

TF has worked in partnership with Yekatit 12 Hospital in Addis Ababa since 2007. Yekatit, the only hospital in Ethiopia that provides multidisciplinary treatment for cleft lip and palate, provides reconstructive surgery, ENT, speech therapy, psychosocial support, dental care and orthodontics to children from all over the country.

Our last day in Addis Ababa at Yekatit Hospital. Loved every minute. This hospital is filled with kindness, love and hope. Inspiring.

Pictured: the SickKids team poses with our local medical team. Photo courtesy of Farah Sheikh.

“[This is] our last day in Addis Ababa at Yekatit Hospital. Loved every minute. This hospital is filled with kindness, love and hope. Inspiring,” said Sheikh.

CLP Clinic Day 1622603_10153767259800302_2041179624_n

These photos were taken during a Cleft Lip and Palate (CLP) Clinic Day. Photo courtesy of Farah Sheikh.

“I met the most amazing parents, most who travelled from remote villages to Addis – so that their child could have a CLP surgery. CLP is very stigmatizing, families can be isolated, many keep their children hidden until the surgery has happened – to protect them from hateful words. Most children with unrepaired CLP do not attend school as the stigma and bullying is so severe. The long term psychological effects can be devastating,” said Sheikh.

Although word is spreading about the cleft program at Yekatit, many patients come to the unit for the first time during late childhood and adolescence. The volunteers met a wide range of patients on their visit – from teenaged patients who have had primary surgery but now need additional procedures to patients who have never had their clefts repaired, including a 46 year-old man.  The volunteer team observed his cleft repair.

“When he looked at his face for the first time after the repair, he said smiling, ‘My life begins today,’” recounted Dr. Forrest.

 DSC_1602 2 DSC_2086

Photo courtesy of Dr. Chris Forrest

Transforming Faces is a Canadian charity that empowers local multidisciplinary medical teams to provide free comprehensive cleft lip and palate care for children and adults in developing countries. This allows children to live full, healthy lives. A private charitable foundation funds our low administrative costs so 100% of all donations are used to support and transform children’s lives. 


Meet the TF team!

February 10th, 2014 by

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TF Family

Meet the TF Partners

We help thousands of children around the world because of our strong team of supporters, volunteers, community health partners and service providers in 7 developing countries. Meet our Partners!

Meet TF Staff

In addition to these dedicated individuals and organizations, our team is made up of staff who are passionately committed to achieving our mission. We’re a small – yet mighty – group based in Toronto. Meet our team! 

Meet our Board

Our dedicated voluntary board of directors provides overall guidance and support for the implementation of Transforming Faces’ mandate. Meet our Board!

Meet the Medical Advisory Committee

We are grateful to our voluntary Medical Advisory Committee (MAC), which is made up of Canadian medical professionals interested in supporting our mandate. Meet our MAC members!

 

 


Meet a Partner: Dr. Arun Chitharanjan, Orthodontist

January 23rd, 2014 by

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Arun

Dr. Arun B.Chitharanjan has been the Head of Orthodontics at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai, India since 2005. He has also been the Vice Principal, Faculty of Dental Sciences, SRU since 2008.

The Department of Orthodontics at SRU has been a TF partner since 2007 and they have been successfully running and expanding the project since then. 

Good oral hygiene is critical, as is the work of dentists and orthodontists in correcting the bite for healthy chewing, speaking and breathing. Continued dental assessments, oral health education, cleaning, extractions, and orthodontic treatment are vital to ensure that children maintain healthy teeth and are able to smile confidently.

“The role of the orthodontist starts right from the day the baby is born and lasts up to 10 to 15 years,” Dr Arun notes. ”When we get them at the right time, the treatment result at the end of the day is best.”

“In our country, a very high percentage of these individuals come from a low socio-economic status or from rural areas. If we do not go out and help them, many of them would be deprived of this treatment,” he notes.

The partnership in India has grown as more districts are seeking community-based rehabilitation (CBR). In India, a major barrier to providing comprehensive healthcare is the long distances and poor transportation for families living in rural areas.  In response, the Speech and Dental departments at SRU teamed up to train CBR workers to provide basic follow up in their communities. 

“What is unique about this project is that we go to the patient. All our patients are rural so we travel about 200 kilometres to treat these patients,” Dr. Arun notes. “We don’t monitor on a daily basis, because orthodontics is a slow-moving process, so we see them about once a month. But what needs to be done on a daily basis by the patient is basic oral hygiene. We will not be able to move teeth effectively if they teeth are not in a satisfactory state.”

CBR workers are trained to identify, screen, document and refer individuals to the hospital. They are also trained to provide basic speech correction services in a child’s home or school, under the supervision of a Speech Therapist.

As a result, the project has provided identification, referral, surgery, speech correction, dental and orthodontic care, to more than 300 children with cleft lip and palate.

Learn More. 

 


Meet a Partner: Prof. Roopa Nagarajan, Audiologist

January 21st, 2014 by

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RoopaRoopa Nagarajan is an audiologist who has worked as a Project Director with Transforming Faces since 2006. She has worked with community based project titled “Comprehensive management of communication disorders in individuals with Cleft lip and palate“.

In India, a major barrier to providing comprehensive healthcare is the long distances and poor transportation for families living in rural areas.  In response, the Speech and Dental departments at SRU teamed up to train community-based rehabilitation (CBR) workers to provide basic follow up in their communities. 

CBR workers are trained to identify, screen, document and refer individuals to the hospital. They are also trained to provide basic speech correction services in a child’s home or school, under the supervision of a Speech Therapist.

As a result, the project has provided identification, referral, surgery, speech correction, dental and orthodontic care, to more than 300 children with cleft lip and palate.

How does Roopa’s team keep track of their patients? ”The most important link has been the community worker who has called and reminded them. Secondly, about two thirds of our parents have mobile phones. The phone has made a difference,” she says.

“Our follow up has been good, overall, because we reach the child at their doorstep. A weakness of the camp system is that if a child is not able to attend on that day, they will have to wait for the next camp,” Roopa adds.

In 2012, Sri Ramachandra University was awarded funding from Mahindra, an Indian multinational automaker, to develop a mobile application software through a competitive grant program. They developed Project E-MPOWER.

Since then, our partners at SRU have used the grant money to develop the project to its current stage. The Implementation of E-Technology in Community-Based Project (E-Technology Project) is a mobile app that will be piloted to improve speech and hearing services for children living in rural areas.

Roopa speaks a bit about how Project E-MPOWER came about:

She sees TF’s role as one that enables people to do what is best for their communities and allows local experts to design programs for their communities. “Change comes through empowerment”