Some 2,500 children with cleft lip and palate are born in Vietnam each year. Our Vietnamese surgeon Dr. Ai has great expertise in treating them as one of our longstanding partners in Vietnam. This and his commitment to helping the minorities in the country make him so valuable for our work. Dr. Ai comes from a simple farming family. As the oldest son, he had the privilege of being able to study. Since then he has worked tirelessly and with great commitment to minorities and the poor population in his homeland. Thousands of cleft children have already benefited from his skills.
One of them is little Phang, who lives in one of the poorest regions of Vietnam with his family. The small mountain village is cut off from all modern civilization. The inhabitants belong to one of the numerous ethnic minorities in Vietnam. They speak their own language, live in their own world and culture. Minorities have a hard time in Vietnam. The family of eight lives in a simple wooden house: Phang, his older brother, his parents, grandparents and two uncles. There is no electricity, no running water. Phang’s father farms two rice fields, keeps pigs, chickens and goats. His mother takes care of the household of the extended family.
Phang is the youngest, and cause for much worry. The little one has a large double cleft and an open palate. This means that he will never learn to speak properly and will be dependent on the protection and help of his parents all his life! His mother never lets him out of her sight. Whatever she does, she has Phang with her.