Soorya from India

A small hamlet in Kerala, India, 2009: The girl Soorya is born with a cleft lip and palate. The birth of a child, and especially a child with a health problem about which one knows nothing, is a stressful situation for the parents, which in this case is unfortunately made even more difficult by their environment: because their daughter looks different, the family is ridiculed and shunned. The mother is blamed for the “curse” of the malformation – not uncommon: unfortunately, when there are problems with reproduction, such as infertility, the “blame” is often first placed on the mother – even if, as in the case of cleft lip and palate, there is no factual basis for this.

After the death of Soorya’s father, a day laborer (in Indian English: “coolie”). Soorya and her mother are forced to face their difficult situation completely on their own. They find shelter with Soorya’s grandfather. In order to protect his granddaughter from the ridicule of other children, he keeps the girl hidden – a sad dilemma: On the one hand, she does not have to endure ridicule, but on the other hand, she also has no opportunity to play normally with other children and build friendships.

In all of our projects, we therefore strive to operate on all children with cleft lip and palate as young as possible. Lip surgery can be performed safely as early as three months of age – the child then grows up with no memory of their cleft lip (other than a fading scar). This allows them to look and learn to speak “normally” and thus develop optimally. This means they can grow up without impairment.

At last: Help for Soorya!

Soorya was already eight years old when staff at our center for children with cleft lip and palate in Mangaluru discovered the girl. It is hundreds of kilometers from the parents’ village to the southwest Indian city of Mangaluru, but thanks to funding from us to cover travel costs, the widow and her child are able to make it to the center. The team explains to the mother that she is not to blame and that Soorya can undergo surgery and lead a normal life.

The lip operation takes place in 2017 – against the resistance of the grandfather, who is afraid for his granddaughter: unfortunately, not all medical help available to poor families is of as high quality as ours. That’s why it’s so important to us to build trust among the population through reliably high quality treatment.

Our logo and that of our Indian partner organization ABMSS on an information poster for our offer of help for children with cleft lip and palate in Varanasi.
Our logo and that of our Indian partner organization ABMSS on an information poster for our offer of help for children with cleft lip and palate in Varanasi.

The grandfather also repeatedly tries to prevent the palate operation. Soorya’s mother fights for her daughter for six years with all her strength and determination. Soorya is 14 years old at this point and is suffering a lot. Because of the hole in the roof of her mouth, she cannot speak properly; when eating, food and drink leak out through her nose. In 2023 the time has finally come: our surgeon Dr. Rao from Mangaluru closes the cleft palate.

Soorya’s story is exemplary of the suffering of many children with cleft lip and palate and their families in our project countries. We are proud to help thousands of them live better lives every year by enabling them to get the medical treatments they so desperately need.

Give hope to the families fighting for their children with your donation! Every donation is a valuable contribution to making a necessary treatment possible for a child with a cleft – and takes a huge shadow off the hearts of the child and their  family!