Laura Lewis-Watts, TF’s Program Manager, travelled to India last spring recent to visit one of Transforming Faces’ longer term partnerships. She monitored current speech and orthodontic activities and to learned more about the expansion of the speech project into a new district. 

I visited the project, active since 2005, which is now ready to replicate their model of community-based rehabilitation based on the lessons learned thus far.  The team, as always, was warm and hospitable and they ensured that I was always busy – including the opportunity to attend a traditional South Indian wedding!

I travelled with the team to the district of Cuddalore, where the speech project is slated to expand.   This district suffered heavily in the 2005 tsunami. In Cuddalore, we visited a town called Chidambaran, where an initial training session was provided at a local NGO.  The goal was to sensitize existing NGO volunteers about cleft lip and palate (CLP) and the project, as an early step in recruiting community-based rehabilitation workers.  It was a successful session, with over 40 people in attendance and a lot of interest generated.

The speech team has taken the initiative to apply for a grant from Mahindra, an Indian multinational automaker.  The grant program, called “Spark the Rise,” is a competition where anyone with a project idea which will “help India to rise” can submit their ideas related to development and social entrepreneurship.  Over 1,000 project ideas were submitted over a period of six months.  Project E-MPOWER is the SRU team’s idea, which aims to develop a mobile app that can be piloted in rural communities to help children with communication disorders, including those involved in the TF project.

In the first round of the competition, Project E-MPOWER mobilized the SRU student population and earned almost 8,000 votes over Facebook.  This was enough to advance them to the jury round, where the made a detailed presentation to a panel of judges, and they were awarded a grant totalling CAD $7,800.