TORONTO, June 11, 2012 – Yeabsra Gebeyhu Hailmarim has undergone her fourth and final surgery today at the Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Transforming Faces (TF), a registered Canadian charity dedicated to closing the gap in cleft care for children in developing countries, would like to extend its’ thanks to SickKids, the Herbie Fund and members of the community who have supported this little girl’s transformation.

Yeabsra attends Herbie Day on June 8 and takes her own portrait.

“Yeabsra is one of many children whose lives are transformed through our work. This care is life-changing. It means she can attend school, play, and have a normal life,” said Esteban Lasso, Executive Director of TF.

TF first learned about Yeabsra in 2010 when Lasso visited Yekatit 12 Hospital, which has a multidisciplinary burn and cleft lip and palate unit that TF has supported since 2007, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Cleft Lip and Palate is one of the most common birth defects in the world. In Ethiopia, a country of over 85 million, an estimated one in every 574 babies is born with cleft lip and palate. Yeabsra’s case was deemed to be too complicated for local treatment.

“This is the first time in its history that we’ve arranged for craniofacial cleft care in Canada,” said Lasso. “Yeabsra is a special case in many ways. She faced many obstacles in trying to receive treatment. When local care was not available to treat her complex case, we could not turn our backs. We responded where others could not.”

The Herbie Fund covered Yeabra’s medical expenses, while TF’s “Jo Jamieson Fund” and generous donations covered travel and accommodation costs for Yeabsra and Aynalem Adugna, her mother. TF also facilitated attendance at a private school for Yeabsra and built networks with the local Ethiopian community so that they would feel at home in Toronto.

Yeabsra, whose journey was featured last week as a part of the Herbie Series, and Aynalem have since visited Canada twice. In April 2011, Yeabsra, Aynalem, and Dr. Mekonen Eshete, the Ethiopian surgeon who cared for Yeabsra in Ethiopia, travelled to Toronto where Yeabsra underwent a 12-hour surgery to repair her facial cleft. They returned to Ethiopia in June 2011 but an infection developed.

Yeabsra, now seven years old, and her mother returned to Toronto in January 2012, where she underwent three surgeries – the first to repair her forehead and the last two to rebuild her nose.

“The operations will help her have a better future,” says Adugna, her mother, who adds that she is very grateful for the corrective surgery.

“It has been great to see Yeabsra progress through this journey – her English has improved and she is enjoying school and her new friends. She is now a very confident and lively little chatterbox!” said Lasso. “We’ve been so honoured to see so many supporters welcome Yeabsra and Aynalem in to their homes, schools and communities.”

“Transforming Faces aims to help children by providing free, local cleft care,” adds Lasso. “We work in some of the most isolated communities around the world because we believe surgery and rehabilitation should be in reach for every child born with a cleft.” 

If you would like to help us close the gap in cleft care, please consider making a donation.


About Transforming Faces:

A registered Canadian charity, Transforming Faces Worldwide provides access to local comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial conditions. A private charitable foundation funds the charity’s administrative costs so a full 100 per cent of donations are used to provide direct services to children and parents affected by CLP around the world.

About the Jo Jamieson Fund:

TF’s “Jo Jamieson Fund” is a small fund which is designated for complicated cleft cases, normally involving craniofacial issues or associated syndromes. This special fund is made available for patients referred by TF partners and each patient is approved on a case-by-case basis. In 1999, Jo Jamieson, a Canadian international development worker, and Jackie Elton, a UK-based businesswoman, founded Transforming Faces Worldwide in Toronto.

About Yeabsra:

Download the Yeabsra backgrounder here.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Debbie Silva, Communications Coordinator
Transforming Faces
10 St. Mary St. #415
Toronto ON M4Y 1P9
Office: 416-222-6581