AboutFace

Our Mission is to promote and enhance positive mental and emotional well being of individuals with facial differences and their families through peer and social support, resources, educational programs, and public awareness. Our Vision is to empower individuals with facial differences to find the confidence and courage to live life to the fullest. Our Organizational Values Include: Encourage Knowing you are not alone is the first step in embracing this journey. AboutFace offers support and encouragement through support groups, online and one-to-one peer networking opportunities, when people with facial differences and their families need it most. Empower Building on strength and characte...
Apr 21, 2015

"Believe me, no one is alone."

Ruaridh
Ruaridh

I have always been a bit of a different person. When I was in Elementary school, my family lived in a small town in Saskatchewan. When other kids were going to hockey practice I was going to theatre class. When other kids were watching TSN, I was practicing violin. The biggest difference between my school acquaintances and I was the fact that I was born with a cleft lip and palate. From about grade two to grade seven I was bullied continuously because of my slight facial difference. There are two things that got me through that time in my life: theatre, and the access I had to AboutFace. Both of these things gave me the message that I was not alone. When I was born my mom became a member of AboutFace. The access to newsletters and the website gave me hop. All of the inspiring stories and exposure to the lives of other kids with facial differences showed me that there were many people out in the world who looked like I do. The information was also a huge inspiration for me when I was in and out of the hospital for surgeries, and I know it helped my parents get through it too.

Later on in my elementary school life when the bullying had reached a peak, my mom gave a presentation to my entire class about facial differences and why it was not acceptable to make fun of somebody because of it. AboutFace was a big inspiration to her and she used several of the newsletters and materials from the website to present to the class. After she did that, my entire school life changed dramatically. The education that my classmates got was invaluable and made my school life a lot easier. I don’t know where I would be without that presentation.

Theatre, the other lifesaver, has had a profound effect on me. Performing in the theatre has been a difficult, taxing, satisfying endeavor. I love performing but it took me a long time to get over my fear of having people see my cleft lip and palate on stage. When I finally got over it, it was very liberating. I perform all over the city now in improve shows, musicals, and plays. Theatre has taught me to face my fears and has given me some of the best experiences of my life. Recently I began teaching it through the Conservatory of Performing Arts in Regina. This opportunity has let me give other kids the same freedom I had to get up in front of people and who them who you are. My favourite moment was having two kids who had been in and out of the foster system perform a rap, which they had written about their experiences in life. One of them described that it was “so cool” to be able to express their frustrations and hopes through art. I totally connected with how they felt.

Next year I plan to begin a theatre career by taking fine arts classes at the University of Regina. I could not be more excited. I would not be embarking on this career if it hadn’t have been for the confidence and support that AboutFace has given me over the years. Stephen Sondheim wrote: “Believe me, no one is alone.” AboutFace has shown me that is true.

Written by: Ruaridh

Feb 27, 2015

Making Connections Across Canada

High Ropes Course at Camp Trailblazers
High Ropes Course at Camp Trailblazers

Meet Hannah and Bahar. These two women became involved in AboutFace Camp Trailblazers over the winter of 2013. They were diligent in contacting AboutFace staff asking how they could bring a program like Camp Trailblazers to their patients and families in Saskatchewan. As medical students involved with the Cleft Lip and Palate program at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, they understood the importance of experiential programming and the benefit of camp in developing resiliency in young people. We are so glad their persistency paid off and after several discussions we agreed that while AboutFace might not have the resources to pilot Camp Trailblazers in a new province (yet), we could work together to raise funds to support some of their patients to attend Camp Trailblazers in Manitoba. It was clear that Hannah and Bahar had enthusiasm for the program, but more importantly, they were committed to making it happen. The two of them saw an opportunity to fundraise by taking part in Leap of Faith, but when they realized that some of the money raised from the program was spent on the fundraisers experience of skydiving they quickly decided to opt out of jumping and put all funds towards camp. Hannah and Bahar had originally planned on escorting the campers to camp and attending a medical conference in the area, but as the date approached, they decided that it was more important to spend the whole time with the campers at camp (and we’re glad they did!).

 

“I had previously volunteered for two summers at Camp Liberty with the American Academy of Dermatology which is a camp for children with severe visible dermatological conditions, and I absolutely fell in love with the camp! I witnessed the difference that we were making in these children’s lives, making them more confident and increasing their self-esteem. So when Hannah told me about Camp Trailblazers I was ecstatic to hear that there is a similar organization in Canada! I immediately wanted to get involved.”- Bahar

 

“In September 2014 we worked with AboutFace and Central &Northern Saskatchewan Cleft Lip & Palate Program to send 6Saskatchewan children to Camp Trailblazers Manitoba. We were able to fundraise the required (with added financial support from AF) funds to fly out with the 6 children from Saskatchewan to camp. The Saskatchewan children were quick to engage and make friends with the campers from Alberta and Manitoba. They had a blast at camp participating in all the different activities such horseback riding, wall climbing, archery, swimming, arts and crafts and so much more! For most of the Saskatchewan children this was their first camp experience. It was truly a pleasure to see them enjoy themselves and make new friends.” – Bahar

 

In preparation for camp, Hannah and Bahar arranged for a social gathering and information session for campers and their families. This allowed families to meet each other and learn about Camp Trailblazers. It also helped parents and guardians feel more comfortable withputting their children on a plane and sending them to another provincefor several days. Upon arriving in Winnipeg I was expecting a group of seven tired campers (the group met up with another camper flying in from Alberta), and two weary volunteers who had been at the airport before some people start their work day. I was greeted instead with smiles and laughter as we met up with the group before heading to the bus pick up with the rest of the campers who came from different places around Manitoba. Hannah and Bahar had equipped the campers with treat bags to keep them fed and happy during the long day of travel. It seemed like the group had known each other for ages, quick to share their snacks and help one another with crafts and activities. We were joined by a younger camper from Manitoba who was starting to doubt his decision to join us at camp, and it was great to see both volunteers take time to talk with him and his mother about how they could make this easier for them. It was even more outstanding to see each of the campers making a point to welcome him into the group and talk about how much fun he would have at camp.

The energy and excitement in the small group couldn’t be contained in one room so after a lunch (supplemented by local apples brought over by our friend Cindy at the Manitoba Centre for Craniofacial Difference) Hannah and Bahar offered to take the group to a nearby park. Before we knew it, was time to meet the rest of the campers and head to Camp Arnes.

While we waited for the bus, experienced campers from Manitoba welcomed new friends from out of province and again the group made sure to welcome first time campers who were feeling a bit nervous. Including the out of province campers, we had 22 campers and 7 volunteers, our biggest group yet in Manitoba! We had a fun and busy weekend that included high ropes, rock climbing wall, horse and pony rides, swimming, campfires, rain and a surprise blackout in our cabin! Through it all, the group smiled, laughed and supported each other. Campers from Saskatchewan contributed to group discussions and gave great examples of challenges they have encountered while living with a facial differencealong with personal experience and tools they have used.

“My most memorable moment from camp was on the last day. We all engaged in an activity called warm fuzzies, where we wrote a note to everyone else in the camp and put in an envelope labeled with their name. I didn't get a chance to read the notes that were left in my envelope until I got home from camp. There were several notes from the Saskatchewan children thanking Hannah and I for taking them to camp. Reading the notes brought tears to my eyes, joyous tears of course as I began to appreciate the difference that we have made in these children’s lives.” – Bahar

 

“My favorite activity at camp was one of the AboutFace activity times where we discussed how to face difficult situations like being starred at in public. It was difficult to hear about some of the situations that the campers had been in, but also inspirational to hear about how brave and strong they were. I think Camp Trailblazers is important for kids with facial differences because it gives them the chance to interact with other children with facial differences as well as share some of the challenges they face. It gave the children the opportunity to have fun and be kids, but also time to discuss the challenges they face and how to deal with this and understand that others can relate.” - Hannah None of this would have happened without the consistent energy of Hannah and Bahar. There were times the rest of us would go to bed and they would stay up to study, because med students aren’t always able to take a day off. AboutFace would like recognize the hard work that these women put into our program and they have already committed to bringing more campers to Camp Trailblazers in 2015. It is exciting to think about the future contributions they will continue to make to patients and their families in the facial difference community as health care professionals. We are lucky to have people like them on our team.

Playground
Playground
Group shot at Camp Trailblazers
Group shot at Camp Trailblazers
Friends at Camp
Friends at Camp
Awards at Camp Trailblazers
Awards at Camp Trailblazers

Links:

Jan 6, 2015

Balancing School and Surgeries

Audrey
Audrey

Youth with a facial difference often require extensive dental and medical procedures.  Many of these take place during their adolescence which consequently means that youth have to spend time away from school and their peers to make various appointments and often require some recovery time after surgeries.  This can make it difficult for them to keep on top of their studies and with challenging curriculums it is easy for students to fall behind on their coursework.  It also makes it challenging to commit to extracurricular activities which is often expected for other scholarships. It also means time away from friends and peers which adds another element of challenge for our youth.  We want to support them in their academic endeavours while recognizing the challenges they might face. 

While some of the associated costs with having a facial difference are covered by healthcare there are significant financial obligations that are not covered.  This includes time off work (youth and parents) to attend various appointments, in face many of our youth are also unable to maintain their own job, due to surgeries and recovery times.  There are also the added costs of travel, accommodation, childcare for sibling…these extra financial burdens are rarely recognized and placed on the youth’s family to cover.  By providing some financial support for education youth have a better chance of being successful during their post secondary education.   

Links:

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