The Gig Harbor Rotary Club had a member, Fred Labayen, who had been the president of the Paranaque Rotary club in the Philippines. In 1984 during his presidency, his club started the Cleft palate committee, where they would pool their funds and money donated by others to pay for operations for children stricken with this deformity.
In 2013 I took a trip to the Philippines with PP Mike Pinch and his family, where we visited Fred’s old club. There we would learn first-hand more about the CLP program. The Dr’s there think it is hereditary and passed from generation to generation. Here in the states, we attribute it to lack of pre-natal vitamins in the remote rural areas. The cost of an operation then was $550. This life-changing operation would repair the deformity and pay for speech therapy if needed. Partnering with the Lady of Peace Hospital and the Nordhoff Cranial facial foundation, we are able to do these surgeries on children. The surgeons donate their time along with the nursing staff.
The Paranaque CLP committee consists of 5 past presidents and the treasurer Benjie Reforsado, who is my go-between boots on the ground person there. Benjie attends the screening of the children who are brought for consolation by their parent or guardian.
Since I took over the International Service committee with help from the district matching funds, we have paid for 78 surgeries over the last 6+ years. When the pandemic hit, the program was halted for a short time in order to get the proper protective clothing in place and to get the health protocols in order. The cost now is $643 per operation. The children will no longer be ousted from the community or shunned by their peers. They will be able to eat, smile and live a normal life. When you see the before and after pictures, it will warm your heart as it did mine.