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:

Volunteer Spotlight: Meanne Chan

April 12th, 2016 by

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Meanne-Picture 2

Transforming Faces is grateful to have ongoing volunteer support in our Toronto office. Last year, one of these fantastic volunteers, Meanne Chan, joined the TF family!

A developmental health psychologist by profession, Meanne learned about Transforming Faces when she was searching for a non-profit organization that focused on supporting children with special needs. Meanne wanted to lend her time to an organization that was working at a grassroots level on a global scale. She explains being drawn to TF since she felt it delivered on its vision in a relatable and approachable manner.

Volunteering with TF has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience for Meanne. “Everyone brings their different backgrounds to the organization while striving towards shared goals”. She also points out how volunteering for “the cause keeps me grounded despite my aspirations, and serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in North America, where (amenities like) clean water and healthcare are readily available.”Meanne Chan- Picture

Meanne is an academic who has moved around and lived in several places around the world. She finds volunteering a great way to get involved in a community and meet people who share similar values.

“Medical advancement and clinical care can always use an extra essence of human touch, and volunteering with a non-profit organization can help us gain perspective about the needs of others. I always encourage professionals to dedicate their leisure time for a greater cause, as it can be even more rewarding than one imagines!”

A huge thank you to our TF Champion, Meanne! We really appreciate your support.


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. 

Meet TF Board Member: Dr. Ron Zuker

April 16th, 2015 by

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Transforming Faces is supported by a dedicated volunteer Board of Directors who provide guidance, strategic leadership and strong governance. In 2014, we were thrilled to introduce two new members who bring invaluable skills and experience to our board.

Dr. Zuker

One of these new members is Dr. Ronald Zuker, plastic surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and professor at the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Zuker is the past Chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Section of Plastic Surgery, past president of the American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons, and past president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery. His clinical focus is on Moebius syndrome, facial paralysis reconstruction, tissue expansion in children, and cleft lip and palate.

Read some of Dr. Zuker’s thoughts on being a part of TF’s Board of Directors:  

“I consider it a great honour to be on the Board of Directors of Transforming Faces. The organizational structure is one that I can relate to with administrative costs being looked after separately and all donations going to the care of children in need.  I truly believe that in time we can improve the lot of children with clefts around the world through the assistance of organizations such as Transforming Faces.

As a surgeon, I know what we can do from a surgical perspective.  However, I also know what we cannot do from a social and integrative perspective.  Social supports for people with clefts are equally important to the actual surgical procedure.  Transforming Faces recognizes this and focuses on pulling all parts of the puzzle together so that unified successful cleft care delivery can be affected.

There are so many areas in our complex world where non-governmental charitable assistance is necessary.  The agenda of Transforming Faces can actually have a direct practical impact on children and faces with clefts.  The moneys donated go directly to cleft care with no administrative burden.  We are realizing our potential in improving the lives of children in many parts of the developing world and hope that we can not only continue to do this but expand our horizons even further.

I bring to the Board considerable expertise in cleft care over my 35 year career at SickKids, in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  I have also worked with charitable organizations in a variety of ways and in a variety of countries, including Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Kenya, South Africa, the Philippines, India and China.  I understand the problems of health care delivery in the developing world and also understand the importance of comprehensive organizational focus such as that provided by Transforming Faces.”