Our largest aid projects for children with congenital cleft lip and palate in South America are located in Bolivia and Peru. Four local NGOs working with us in Bolivia and two in Peru, together with their local surgeons, specialists and therapists, make the medical help that is so vital for our little patients a reality. Our South America manager Stefanie Huter lives in the region and accompanied our partners in Peru, Team Qorito from Lima, led by Dr. Alberto Bardales, on a mission with a speech therapy camp in Cuzco, Peru.
In addition to our Team Qorito from Lima, the renowned speech therapist María Del Carmen Pamplona (Maricarmen) from Mexico City arrived to participate in this outreach with her assistant Ana. She is giving a three-day workshop in which children who have already had surgery are evaluated and divided into three groups. Maricarmen and Ana work in parallel with the different groups. A total of 44 patients participate in the intensive workshop. On the first day, a long line forms in front of our orthodontist Yanira’s office. Many parents have come to the evaluation with their cleft children from all parts of the country, some with the hope that their little ones will be operated on, others because they want their children to have speech therapy with Maricarmen Pamplona.
The intensive speech therapy camp is held in collaboration with the University of Cusco. The university provides the premises as well as food for the students and the medical staff. 42 students as well as 49 people from the field of psychology and speech therapy, some of whom have traveled from Lima to participate, take part in the training by Maricarmen, which begins daily at 9 am. This is followed by the practical part, in which three speech therapists from Bolivia and 2 therapists from Lima and Cuzco also participate and are trained by Maricarmen.
We are excited to see the noticeable progress the patients have made at the end of each day and about the high motivation of the children as well as the parents, who quickly make friends among themselves and promise to continue doing exercises with their children at home and to exchange ideas with the others. Maricarmen demonstrates her approach during a group session in the auditorium of the University in Cuzco. Her assistant Ana and our two speech therapists from Bolivia are working in parallel with another group of patients.
We are constantly on the move to meet the families whose children have come for the operation. Lucio, the little sunshine who always beams at us, we immediately take to our hearts. His mother tells us that she was informed by her doctor that the child would be born with cleft lip and palate, but that she had no idea what this would mean. In the seventh month of pregnancy, he had to be delivered by cesarean section. His mother was not allowed to see him until he had been in the intensive care unit for another month; she says she “almost fainted” at the sight of him. Both parents make a living growing coca leaves, making just enough to survive for the family of four. Now Lucio is 8 months old and his parents are overjoyed that he is able to receive surgery from Dr. Bardales – thanks to the Qorito team and DCKH’s donors!
While our speech therapists work in groups with the children in the university building, Dr. Bardales and his team operate their patients in the Hospital Regional del Cusco. The operation is the first, essential step in the treatment. Hospital Regional del Cusco is a state hospital where Dr. Bardales has been operating patients with cleft lip and palate once a year for more than 10 years. Our in-country teams regularly travel from their main sites to hospitals in surrounding rural areas to treat children whose families cannot afford to travel to the main site. Our goal is that no child should go without treatment simply because he or she was born in a remote location to a poor family. The encouraging result at the end of this mission: 16 operations for small cleft patients and speech therapy treatment for 44 others who had received their operation earlier.
Fully committed to helping cleft children: the members of our South American teams. In the back: Surgeon José and the surgeon and leader of Qorito, Dr. Alberto Bardales. In the middle row: Psychologist Mitsee (Qorito), Speech Therapist Margot (Qorito), Yeni Soleto (Nurse and right hand of Dr. Alberto Bardales), Stefanie Huter (Project Manager DCKH), Leni (Nurse and Assistant of Speech Therapy Expert María Carmen Del Pamplona), María Carmen Del Pamplona (Head of Speech Therapy Workshop), Sylvia Luedtke-Haas (Project Manager DCKH). In the front row: From our Bolivian team Dr. Adolfo Mamani; Claudia Bautista, Gabriel, Gabriela (speech therapy); Ana from Mexico (assistant of María Carmen del Pamplona).