In June, Esteban Lasso, Transforming Faces’ Executive Director travelled to Peru and Argentina to assess the progress of the new Community Rehabilitation Center (CRC) project in Peru and build partnerships among cleft centers in North Western Argentina. Here are some more observations from his trip.

Esteban, at left, meets with the team at KusiRostros, which administers the CRCs.

I spent most of my time in Lima visiting plastic surgeons, clinics and hospitals.  The CRCs will become a major player in the treatment of children with cleft as it will direct children to the appropriate rehabilitation avenue. After the surgery is performed, parents have little guidance on what to do next. They are left to run from one place to another like a “headless chicken” as it was mentioned during my trip. That’s why more awareness is needed and why our CRCs are so vital.

I had a pleasant visit in Argentina and was happy to see that GAVINA is a growing in presence in the city.  It was also an excellent opportunity to connect with other cleft centers in North Western Argentina, or NOA as it is referred by the local population.  GAVINA is also attempting to carry out a study about the demand of cleft services in the NOA as well as the available human resources.

I travelled to Santiago de Estero to meet with the CEPSI Eva Peron team and a new cleft unit of the Catamarca Children’s Hospital.  The three assembled institutions discussed joining forces to improve their systems and create capacity building opportunities. In  general, Buenos Aires absorbs most the human and capital resources not only in cleft but in every social and economic realm.  The creation of a cleft network in NOA can enable partners to document their experience, carry out research on the alarming cleft incidence and other malformations.

I met Natalia Salazar, who is 9 years old.  She has repeated second grade twice and is under observation in grade 3. Her teacher has undermined Natalia’s confidence.  GAVINA’s social worker has been trying to obtain a special teacher through the local education system. Her mom told me that Natalia could not continue her speech sessions because every time she needed to get an appointment, she had to stay overnight at the children’s hospital to obtain one of the 10 spaces available to the public. 

However, now at GAVINA she can set an appointment during one of the two days when speech treatment is provided and she is getting other support for her daughter.  In sum, patients faced major obstacles to access treatment.

I also met with Susana Mamani, who coordinates the parent’s group at GAVINA. The purpose of the parents group is to listen to their concerns, educate them in cleft treatment and empowering parents to ensure that medical professionals are more accountable in the treatment they are providing. 

For pictures of my trip, check out our Facebook page!