Ritu, a visit back home

Ritu can also smile, at last! Only when she was eight years old was the young girl allowed to come to the Cleft-centre for treatment.

When little Ritu was born, she was her parents’ fourth child. Just like all mothers and fathers, they had been looking forward to the moment in which they would see their newborn for the first time and when that time finally came, they were shocked: a clearly visible cleft split the top lip of the small baby high into an extremely broad nose.

The doctors calmed them down by telling them that there was the chance of having a free operation. Ritu's parents were relieved to hear this, but that moment did not last long. Because the grandparents now butted in with their traditional concepts and said that Ritu's cleft was the will of God - a sign given her for life.

"Unhappily that is something which we experience all too often," says Prof. Sailer. "Especially in India, in rural areas, the very old religious prejudices and superstitions often predominate. The people there can only be reached though a great deal of educational work." Ritu's parents initially also bent to the grandparents’ will and Ritu grew up with the disfigurement, often cast out by other children, and very sad.

When she was seven, her grandparents died and her parents decided to make use of the opportunities of the present day and seek treatment for their daughter. The girl was then operated at the Cleft-centre in Mumbai. After just a few days there was only a small scar still visible after the operation, and Ritu could be discharged to go back home - a pretty, lively and happy girl, the pride of her parents.