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Ofcourse this is very personal to me since Cali is a beautiful Cleft child.
For unknown reasons, Asia has the highest incidence of babies being born with cleft lip in the world. Due to cultural beliefs in China that children born with cleft bring shame to a family, thousands of children each year with cleft are abandoned and end up as orphans. Sadly, many cleft babies in orphanages pass away due to an inability to feed, mainly caused by ineffective bottle propping and busy orphanage caregivers being unable to hand feed failure to thrive infants. We have personally seen hundreds of cleft babies struggle in an orphanage setting, often with fatal results. In 2008, we realized that by creating specialized Cleft Healing Homes for these fragile children, we could save lives every day. Many of the babies who enter our homes are in critical condition, often weighing just 8-9 pounds at 8 months of age. We believe so fully that no child should pass away simply from being born with cleft lip. Every orphan deserves a second chance at life and a family to love them.
LWB was the 1st foundation in China to set up a healing center specifically designed for orphans with cleft. Our two current homes, staffed with specially trained nannies, have saved many babies’ lives. LWB provides cleft lip surgery to the children in our care as soon as they reach the required weight, and then we advocate for each child to find a permanent home through adoption. Our dream is to open a Cleft Healing Home in every province in China so that no orphan with cleft would have to struggle to survive. Winning one million dollars would allow us to open additional regional centers, providing TLC and medical care to the most vulnerable infants. In addition, we would work towards decreasing the stigma surrounding this special need in rural villages through community outreach. With education and support, we believe we could actually stop children from being abandoned, preventing children with cleft from becoming orphans.
The outcomes of this innovative project are clear. We would save the lives of orphans with cleft, as in our current homes, children who have arrived in critical condition are now thriving. We will also shorten the wait time for surgery and increase the adoption rate, as 95% of the children discharged from our homes have their adoption paperwork filed with our advocacy. We believe our cleft healing homes will make a long term impact on the surrounding communities in China, as we work to show the world that every child, regardless of their needs, deserves love. We know overcoming the stigma surrounding children with cleft will be a gradual process, but we believe it is an essential goal. As we open more life-saving centers, more orphanages can know there is a safe haven to send their children who are failure to thrive. LWB has local staff and hospital partnerships already in place throughout China, allowing us to begin implementation of this project immediately.