Our help for the poorest of the poor in India – the founding of our foundation
On her trips through India Dr. h.c. Erika Sailer encountered people with cleft disfigurements for the first time.
On her journeys through India, Dr. h.c. Erika Sailer, who was then still actively involved in the textile industry, first encountered people with cleft disfigurements. These people are amongst India's poorest. In addition to their material straits, they also suffer from social marginalisation, the exclusion from friends and family. Dr. Sailer could not forget the fate of these people. One day, when she met a young boy called Ranga, an eleven-year-old with cleft, she decided to support him by financing an operation in Zurich. She collected some of the moneys through donations but paid for the lion's share herself. Convincing Prof. Sailer of the need was probably the easiest of her tasks - the complicated part was getting all of the official permits and organising Ranga's departure.
But Erika Sailer was tough and spent many months making applications and collecting money for Ranga's operation. "It was incredible," says an amazed Prof. Sailer even today. "We were all incredibly impressed by her commitment, me most of all." And she ultimately got her way: Ranga was operated on in Zurich.
And as a matter of fact: after just a few days Ranga was able to see the results himself in a mirror - and could hardly believe his luck: the cleft which had completely dominated his life until now and made him an outsider in his own world, was no longer there. He hesitantly tried to smile. And it worked!
Ranga was not only infinitely grateful but also motivated as never before to do something with his life. "He caught up on everything," reports Erika Sailer, full of pride, "he learned to eat and speak properly, caught up in school, gained friends and finally - something he had never even hoped for - got a job in a hotel. He sent me photos of himself standing there, totally proud in his uniform welcoming guests in the foyer with a warm smile every day. Absolutely great." Without an operation this would have been impossible.
"When I saw him again in September 2017 in our centre at the university of Mangalore," reports Prof. Sailer, "he had completed his training as a nurse and was working there in the clinics." "It was because of him that I came to India, which left a lasting impression. The beauty of the country as well as the sobering poverty of the people there. We simply had to do something. And since we were unable to transport all children like Ranga to Switzerland, we set up the Cleft-centres to help them." And so Ranga was the first child in India who Prof. Sailer was able to help with a cleft operation. The first of many thousands of lives which have been changed for the better by him and his team of specialists.