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December 2022: Project visit in Vietnam

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The successful work of Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe e.V. for children with cleft lip and palate all over the world would not be possible without our network of helpers and supporters. In addition to the many local surgeons and other medical professionals in the partner countries, this network also includes volunteer supporters who support our local teams with their passion, their energy, and their specialist expertise. An intercultural exchange that is very valuable and enriching for both sides.

The work in our project country Vietnam has been accompanied since 2016 by the Munich doctors PD Dr. Dr Denys J. Loeffelbein and PD Dr. med. Daniel Lonic. In December 2022, after a break of three and a half years forced by the pandemic, the two were finally able to see their colleagues and friends in Vietnam again.

Impressions from Vietnam. Photo credit:
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The anticipation of finally seeing everyone again is mixed with respect: many complicated cases that have accumulated during the forced break await them in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, our project locations. However, with the medical guidance of Prof. Lo from the renowned Chang Gung Craniofacial Center in Taiwan, this is no problem. The Chang Gung Craniofacial Center is a partner of the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation (NCF), our cooperation partner in the Vietnam project. Prof. Lo is the medical director of the cleft projects for NCF.

Our partner in Vietnam: The Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation (NCF)

Thanks to our cooperation with the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation (NCF) from Taiwan, we were able to greatly expand our aid project in Vietnam. In 2016, we opened a location in Ho Chi Minh City, and shortly afterwards, in summer 2019, we added a second joint project. Our partnership with NCF is characterized by the common understanding that a comprehensive and, above all, long-term treatment concept is crucial for sustainable therapeutic success. Under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Noordhoff, the founder of NCF, the Chang Gung Craniofacial Center in Taiwan has become a world leading treatment center. Our teams in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have access to this great expertise for targeted training and continuing education – a valuable resource. Pictured: (from left to right): Dr. Daniel Lonic (Munich), Prof. Lun-Jou Lo (Taiwan), Dr. Duong Minh Tung (Ho Chi Minh City), Dr. Dr. Denys Loeffelbein (Munich).

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A special highlight for Daniel and Denys is the reunion with Dat. Dat was a victim of a poorly run aid mission in Vietnam as a young boy, during which presumably inexperienced doctors performed a botched palate operation on him. This had dramatic consequences. Dat could hardly speak, did not go to school out of shame. Only a complex operation could help him, which was not easy to organize in Vietnam. So we brought Dat and his mother Chi to Munich, where he received surgery from Daniel and Denys.

Today Dat is 14 years old. Since Dat still speaks very nasally, the team performs another surgery, which goes well. As a farewell gift, Dat receives a very special present: in memory of his exciting time in Munich four years ago, Daniel and Denys have brought him a jersey of the FC of Bayern Munich. Dat has grown into a young man over the past four years – but the jersey just still fits.

Impressions from Vietnam. Photo credit:
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At the end of the work there is a happy result to show: the German-Vietnamese teams provided surgery to almost 60 cleft patients in the two cities. It was more than worth it: The children can now start a new life. After a turbulent week full of touching moments, before Denys and Daniel know it, it’s time to return home – from 26 degrees warm Southeast Asia back to wintry Germany. Our two project leaders are certain that they will continue to work to further develop the treatment of cleft patients in Vietnam. We are overjoyed.

New genetic study sheds light on how cleft lip and palate forms
There is still no reliable method to prevent the development of a cleft lip and palate. This is in no small part due to the fact that there is not one clear cause: Cleft has a multifactorial origin. One important factor is genetic. Here too, however, the situation is not clear-cut - there is no such thing as "the cleft gene". A group of researchers at the University of Bonn has now added to our knowledge about cleft by investigating the 98% of genes that do not themselves directly contain blueprints for proteins.
Daimler Symphony Orchestra: Charity concert for Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe
On Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, the Daimler Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, with pianist Marcel Mok and under its longtime musical director Matthias Baur, played a benefit concert for the Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe. The orchestra, a project of music enthusiasts from the Daimler Group, has been in existence since 1978. Former Stuttgart mayor Dr. Wolfgang Schuster gave a welcoming address.
24 Gute Taten Advent calendar – featuring Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe!
For many, the pre-Christmas season would not be complete without an Advent calendar. Small treats or loving gifts sweeten every December day. But another thing can also be hidden behind the doors: good deeds! The 24 Gute Taten ("24 Good Deeds") charity Advent calendar makes sure of that: every day, a charitable project from the fields of health, environment, education and many more is presented and supported with the proceeds from the sale of the calendars. This year, one of the projects presented once again is one by Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe!
From our projects
The story of Maui, cleft child from Colombia
Our new project to help children with cleft lip and palate in Colombia begins with a very unusual case. Maui was born with a cleft lip and palate. His parents belong to an indigenous people and do not know how to get him the help he needs. By a happy coincidence, Julia, a Swiss woman living in Colombia, is a neighbor of the family and offers to help. In search of treatment options, she comes across Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe.
Video: Impressions from Bolivia
The parents of our cleft children are always full of gratitude. When their child is born with cleft, they often do not know what to make of the malformation, much less that it can be treated. And even if they do - most of our little patients come from the poorest of backgrounds. Their parents could never afford the operation. It is an unimaginable happiness for them to learn that their children can receive qualified treatment, and free of charge even. This wonderful, touching film from our Bolivian aid project captures these special moments of happiness.
Video: Impressions from Pakistan
This film, made for our Pakistani partner organization, the Al-Mustafa Welfare Societey, by the father of one of our patients, shows scenes from our work in Karachi. From here, our senior surgeon Prof. Ashraf Ganatra treats cleft children from poorest families. He operates the children from Karachi at the Al Mustafa Medical Center. In order to reach the many needy families living outside the city, he also regularly heads out to local provincial hospitals to treat cleft patients there.