An interdisciplinary congress that brings awareness about the family-based approach to care took place in Lima, Peru on November 23-25, 2012. 

The Congress aimed to educate cleft practitioners, medical students and parents about the importance of holistic care and support the parents’ role in treatment. A nurse, social worker, pathologist, plastic surgeon and orthodontist from the Cleft Lip and Palate Department at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) attended and lent their expertise. 

Our Peruvian team is hoping to set up a cleft lip and palate association and further develop their team approach.

“With the team approach, there’s a lot of discussion and collaboration so that the child gets the best possible care,” said Cindy Guernsey, a TF board member and Program Coordinator in the Cleft Lip and Palate Program at the Hospital for Sick Children.

The SickKids team, which oversees about 3,000 children its’ program, can relate to TF’s Community Rehabilitation Centers (CRCs) in Peru as they also operate Northern clinics. The team was able to visit a CRC and meet patients. They also witnessed a speech therapy session and feeding support session.

Frances Margar-Bacal, a speech-language pathologist, said that seeing the challenges that many children face at our CRCs gave her a better appreciation for her role here in Canada. She explains why it is imperative for disciplines to work together for the benefit of the patient: 


Farah Sheikh, a social worker in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at SickKids and a member of our Medical Advisory Committee, says the CRCs are similar to their Canadian outreach clinics. She can see why families are sometimes forced to drop out of the program, due to travel constraints. “Lima is such a large city,” she explains. 

Sheikh is a strong believer in peer support and likes that the CRCs allow parents to share their experiences. She says that the idea of a choir, which is being implemented in Peru, was one that stuck with her as it provides the children with self-confidence and fosters a sense of community.  She also enjoyed seeing how the staff rotates from one donated space in the city to another in order to meet the needs of patients.

 “Cleft is very common globally and it is very upsetting that so many children don’t have access to care,” added Guernsey. “We know the impact of an unrepaired cleft and that is what drives us to volunteer.”

“We’re all in this together and everyone has something to offer,” said Guernsey. “It’s fulfilling to be able to work together and make a difference in the life of a child.”

The Congress showcased the work of Transforming Faces’ Peruvian team while also providing new training opportunities and new ideas for providing comprehensive cleft care in their own communities.

“I was impressed by the enthusiasm,” says Guernsey. “The healthcare professionals there were very eager to learn and to implement as much as they can into their program to be successful.”

Guernsey notes that they experienced a positive response from the Peruvian team, “I think we laid some foundation for working together in future.”

“An important part of our work is building the capacity of local organizations,” says Esteban Lasso, Executive Director. “We do this through peer exchange and mentoring opportunities. We support the development of local, multi-disciplinary medical teams, which encourages medical professionals to practice in their home countries and builds the capacity of health systems to improve the quality of life of their citizens.”

The Congress was co-funded by Transforming Faces and Smile Train. 

For photos of the conference, check out our Facebook album.