This week’s blog features a guest post from longstanding TF Board Member, Nan Hudson.
For 12 days in April, I had the privilege of travelling with TF to visit partners in Chile and Argentina with our new Executive Director, Ann Rosenfield, and Program Manager, Abdon Aguillon. Our first stop was Santiago, where we met with the staff and board of Fundación Gantz, Chile’s foremost hospital for the treatment of children born with cleft lip and palate.
TF was sponsoring a training there for 13 dentists and orthodontic surgeons from throughout the region, where they were learning how to create and apply a NAM (the innovative nasal alveolar moulding device) for a newborn born with a cleft. These staff were keen to learn and take back their new knowledge and skills to help children in their own communities, including as far away as Lima, Peru, and Tucumán, Argentina.
While there, I watched a one-month-old boy receive a NAM, which covers the cleft in the palate and allows the child to feed normally. The moment it was installed and the mother provided a bottle of milk, that little guy ‘knocked it back’ so quickly; it was amazing and wonderful to see! The staff and board of Fundación Gantz are impressive professionals with a profound commitment to the well-being of the children and their families, and I found it deeply humbling to watch them at work.
Our next stop was Mendoza, Argentina, where we were met by Sylvia Torres, a orthodontist who had been at the Santiago training. She excitedly told us that she would be doing her first NAM in just a few days on a newborn, and she couldn’t wait to do it. In Mendoza, we visited with the staff of two hospitals, and listened to the challenges facing them due to the complexities of the health system in that region. TF will continue to remain in touch with them, supporting them in both training opportunities and overcoming the challenges of delivering comprehensive cleft care to their patients.
We spent the last few days in Tucumán, Argentina, where we support the work of Fundación Gavina. Again, we met an impressive and dedicated staff team delivering the components of comprehensive care (medical, dental, speech, audiology, phonology, orthopaedics, psychological and social work) all in a caring and coordinated centre.
On the last day of our trip, we met with the Minister of Health for Tucumán Province, Dr. Rossana Chahla, in the hopes that a long-delayed agreement between the Ministry and Fundación Gavina might be signed, enabling Gavina access to the paediatric work of hospitals in the province. The Minister was pleased to expedite the agreement, extending it to cover all 23 provincial hospitals in the Province.
Later that same day, we visited two children treated by Gavina in their homes, and understood more fully the immense challenges these families face, but hearing also their profound gratitude for Fundación Gavina.
I’ve been a Board Member with Transforming Faces for over a decade, and I continue to appreciate the quiet, enabling way in which our work supports dedicated and caring professionals in their home countries, deepening their capacity to offer the kind of care that transforms lives. To see that capacity extended by one of our partners to others throughout South America was deeply moving, and I returned home with a sense of profound gratitude for the work of TF and the amazing people throughout the world with whom we work. Most of all, it is worth more than words can describe to see, in the faces of the parents and the children, the hope and joy that this work has made possible.
Nan Hudson has been a TF Board Member since 2002 and currently chairs our Programs Committee. Read her bio here.