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How we help

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In many countries, cleft children and their families have no access to treatment and are instead are shunned by their neighbors and peers for their entire lives. Because of their cleft, the children are stigmatized as disabled, ridiculed and marginalized. Very few are able to attend school. In addition, many of the children have serious health problems as a result of their cleft.

As an aid organization for cleft children in need we work to ensure that cleft children from all countries and backgrounds to have access to safe, high-quality, and comprehensive treatment, giving them a chance to live a better life in good health.

Our concept to achieve this goal is to invest in the long-term development of our projects – as a foundation for lasting, functioning local treatment structures and thus sustainable aid and reliable, accessible long-term care for the cleft patients in our project countries. Providing information to parents on the causes of and treatment options for clefts also are crucial parts of our work.

Qualified local teams, comprehensive cleft care and dissemination of information are the foundations of our philosophy, to ensure that our work has sustainable long-term results.

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The life-changing surgery


The most important part of the treatment is the surgery. Performed by a skilled, qualified surgeon like our partners are, it makes children with a cleft lip look “normal”. If there is also a cleft palate, at least one further operation is required to close it. An untreated cleft palate has serious consequences: the children cannot eat and drink properly and speak with difficulty.

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Cloud Arrow Arrow Cloud Arrow Arrow Arrow A surgery, performed by skilled local surgeons, only costs 300 euros. Help with a donation and give a cleft child a chance to live a better life.
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Helping people help themselves

Sustainable development cooperation usually follows the motto “Helping people help themselves”. But what does that mean? How do you get a project to a point where it works stably and independently?

As an international aid organization, we understand “helping people to help themselves” as a long-term investment in the development of our aid projects. We continuously accompany our projects beyond the initial buildup phase. Our activities are tailored to country-specific conditions and individual needs.

Medical aid on site is organized by our partners on their own responsibility. In our project countries, local doctors, therapists and project coordinators ensure the care and medical treatment of patients. In times of Corona, this philosophy proved to be particularly effective. Organizations whose aid relies on foreign doctors often had to suspend their activities due to travel restrictions. Thanks to our local teams, we can continue providing treatments despite the pandemic.

The structures in our project countries vary. In the larger cities, we have permanent project sites in partner clinics. To care for the many children with cleft lip and palate who live in remote rural areas and have no access to qualified treatment, regular surgical missions are carried out in surrounding provincial hospitals. Each project has a lead surgeon with a team of anesthesiologists and nurses at his side.

Wherever the medical infrastructure allows, the children receive comprehensive care. The core teams are then expanded to include speech therapists, orthodontists, dentists and psychologists.

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Continuous specialist training
To ensure a reliably high quality of treatment, training and further education of our teams are crucial. Above all else, we rely on the exchange and transfer of knowledge between our international project partners. Experienced surgeons from our focus countries in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh train young surgeons in cleft surgery. In addition, individual projects receive guidance from German doctors working on a voluntary basis. They support our partners on site with their expertise from all relevant disciplines. As a rule, visit “their” project country once a year. In addition to ongoing project evaluation, these missions also serve primarily to provide further training for our local teams. Martin Andreas, who also supports our help for cleft children financially with his foundation, leads our project in Costa Rica. Ulrike Lamlé has been associated with Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe for many years. She is in charge of our projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, China and Somalia. Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach are our East Africa experts. They have been accompanying our projects in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania since 2009 and have built up an African medical team that carries out aid missions independently. Daniel Lonic and Denys Loeffelbein operate once a year as a team with our Vietnamese doctors in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and mentor two young surgeons from Bangladesh as part of a trainee program.
Dr. Martin Andreas, dentist
Gunther Au-Balbach, oral and maxillofacial surgeon
Dr. Dr. Oliver Blume, oral and maxillofacial surgeon
Dr. Ulrike Lamlé, ENT physician
PD Dr. Dr. Denys Loeffelbein, oral and maxillofacial surgeon
PD Dr. Daniel Lonic, specialist plastic surgeon
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Volunteering to help cleft children

Our project leaders work on a purely voluntary basis to help our cleft children. Their work on site is hard and sometimes also risky. And yet they are always motivated anew to continue: Motivated to help save children’s lives. Oliver Blume’s film exemplifies this. The oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Munich, a father of four himself, has been working for many years for Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe to help cleft children in East Africa.

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Comprehensive cleft care

It is often underestimated what it means for a child to be born with a cleft lip and palate. There is the obvious disfigurement that often causes cleft children to live in isolation. In addition, the cleft can cause many severe functional impairments. Comprehensive treatment begins before surgery and continues afterward in most cases. It is a key prerequisite for steering the lives of these children in a different direction in the long term. In this process, many medical specialists work hand in hand:

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Speech and functional therapy
Cleft children are impaired in their speech development due to the functional impairment in the mouth and throat. Many muscles are underdeveloped. Children with a cleft palate also have a nasal, often hoarse voice. Speech and functional therapy improves oral motor skills and articulation.
Dentistry and orthodontics
A cleft lip and palate often means that there are massive tooth and jaw misalignments. Correcting this is a long-term process. Surgical interventions such as bone transplants, are often necessary. In some of our treatment centers, children are treated with NAM therapy before the operation. In addition almost all children in our project countries have bad teeth due to a lack of dental care and oral hygiene.
ENT care
With a cleft palate, there is insufficient pressure equalization in the middle ear. As a result, the ventilation of the middle ear is restricted, resulting in fluid accumulating. The children suffer from constant feeling of pressure, earache and in many cases from chronic inflammation of the middle ear. The fluid congestion in the middle ear in the long run leads to impaired hearing, which causes even more problems when learning to speak.
Psychosocial support
Cleft children are different from other children. They look different, speak differently. Being different often leads to exclusion, ridicule and teasing. This can result in far-reaching psychosocial problems for the children. Early and ongoing psychological support helps strengthen the children’s self-confidence. It also helps the affected parents, for whom the birth of a child with cleft can cause a lot of stress and worry.
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Awareness work

Often parents know nothing about the treatment options and causes of a cleft lip and palate. Many believe that the cleft is a punishment for a sin. So education is an important part of our work. Out of shame and ignorance, children with cleft lip and palate are often hidden away. Education and awareness work is necessary to find affected children and to teach parents about the causes of cleft and the free treatment. We use posters, advertisements or social media channels. Project workers go from house to house, visit schools and markets to draw attention to our offer of treatment.

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Five good reasons to donate for cleft children
We dedicate ourselves to a single cause: Treating children with cleft lip and palate. In our project countries, we offer direct medical help for the needy patients and their families. Measurable in the number of surgeries offered.
Whereever the situation in our project countries allows, we fund additional necessary followup therapies beyond the surgeries, such as speech therapy or orthodontics.
Every treatment is documented by our doctors in the project countries in our patient database and verified by us. This way we know that the donations entrusted to us are used properly.
Our goal always is to build sustainable, independently functioning structures in our project countries. To achieve this, we build up long-term partnerships and keep in close touch with our local partners.
The German Central Institute for Social Matters (DZI) certifies that we use the donations entrusted to us responsibly and properly manner. We have held this certificate continuously since 2012.
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