Visiting a cleft camp
How we reach people in distant rural areas of India.
The flyers tell the story in Hindi and in many vivid colours: for people who are born with a cleft there is help free of charge! The before and after pictures show the visible outcomes and underneath Prof. Sailer and his team can be seen while treating a patient. The Cleft-centre in Chennai distributes the flyers: advertising for the cleft camp, which is organised together with the Erode Foundation to explain things, particularly to people in far flung, rural regions outside of cities in order to help dispel people's fears.
The camps are often organised on weekends: parents come with their children, some adults are also affected. They all come together for a brief general information round, where they learn what is planned during the rest of the day and how the operations normally take place and are organised.
Then it is time for everybody as an individual: just like in the surgery at a hospital, one patient after another is examined by the doctors, their data is recorded, and the urgency categorised case-by-case. "That is very focused work," explains Prof. Sailer, "because we never know beforehand how many people will actually come for a consultation. And these screenings often last several hours, but we work as long as necessary until we have seen the last of the patients who have come to us."
In addition, it also has to be clarified whether it is possible for the patient or the family to come to a Cleft-centre for treatment. If they do not live close to the town, it is often even too expensive for these people to travel by bus. In such cases transportation has to be organised by the centre itself. In the meantime, packed lunches are distributed to the people and in the interim they tell each other what it is like to live with their cleft lips- but they also talk of the hope that they and their children can soon be helped.
"And it is a hope we try to fulfil," promises Prof. Sailer.
He wants to fulfil his aspiration to help if possible every single cleft patient in India, whether they live near a Cleft-centre or further away, out in the countryside where the hope of receiving help alone is something rare and valuable.