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Jan 16, 2018

Our actions to change lives in 2017

Keila after surgery
Keila after surgery

In our last update, we introduced you to Keila, a nine-year-old who received surgery at a hospital when she was three but didn't receive the proper follow up. With teeth growing and coming out through her upper lip, Keila needed further surgical intervention.

We are happy to report that Keila no longer has to worry about other kids making fun of her. Thanks to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team, she received all the medical attention she needed, including the very important post-op follow up.

Children in numbers

By December 2017, we:

  • performed 122 cleft lip surgeries
  • followed by 94 cleft palate surgeries
  • had 286 children enrolled in the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program
  • provided speech therapy to 85 children

From all cleft patients identified, only 20 only needed lip surgery, and 8 only needed palate, while the remaining patients needed both. 

Our work in Guatemala is non-stop and numbers change in a matter of days/weeks.

Further efforts for the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program

Feeding a cleft infant can be very tricky and can result in malnourishment at very early ages, which can even prevent children from undergoing surgery.

To prevent such scenario, the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program was created to early detect babies with a cleft lip and/or palate and provide them with all the nutritional support needed prior to surgery. Mothers receive instructions on how to feed their babies, along with manual breast pumps or formula.

Manual breast pumps are the most cost-effective options, with each pump costing roughly $30, while formula can cost as much as $600 per child and should only be used in special cases. In light of this information, we created an Amazon wish list giving donors the option to send us the pumps directly, to which we received a positive and ongoing response.

What volunteer teams have to say

We are grateful to all the teams that changed the lives of children in Guatemala in 2017: Medical Mission for Children, The Children Hospital of Philadelphia/University of Pennsylvania (Smiles for Guatemala), Faces of Hope, Health for Humanity.

Don Heebner, who helped the Philadelphia team get started, left us with the following quote:

"Our entire team was grateful for the unique experience, and the opportunity to help the children of Guatemala. As a veteran of ten cleft lip and palate missions I was especially impressed with the high level of organization and support by the entire ACPC team. Their cheerful dedication to the children and the mission made this mission memorable and personally rewarding."

All the work we do in Guatemala would not be possible without so many wonderful volunteers and the continuous generosity of our donors. The efforts of so many people to positively make an impact on the lives of Guatemalans is a truly beautiful thing to witness.

Keila before surgery
Keila before surgery
Edvin, his mother and Dr. Nahum from Faces of Hope
Edvin, his mother and Dr. Nahum from Faces of Hope
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia team w/ twins


Jan 2, 2018

What 2017 meant for Guatemalans in need

Patients during triage
Patients during triage

As 2018 begins, we would like to look back at 2017 and be grateful for every achievement that was made possible through the generosity of our donors and the support of our volunteers.

In 2017, we:

  • brought in 12 surgical teams
  • performed 501 surgeries
  • organized 5 mobile medical missions
  • evaluated 2377 patients
  • found 806 surgical candidates
  • screened 2994 women for cervical cancer, resulting in the treatment of 75 women
  • evaluated 730 women for breast cancer
  • helped nourish 286 children through our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program
  • reached over 2,000 women in our sessions on preventive care and early detection education

A special focus on women

Cervical and breast cancer are two of the greatest causes of suffering and loss among poor rural families in Guatemala. Cervical cancer ranks as the most frequent type of cancer, while breast cancer comes in second among women in Guatemala.

Partner for Surgery has been working closely with its Guatemalan counterpart, Asociación Compañero para Cirugía (ACPC), to reduce cervical and breast cancer morbidity and mortality by ensuring access to comprehensive and high-quality screening, follow-up, treatment, and education services.

Mobile medical missions

These missions, staffed by international medical volunteers and with ACPC staff and health promoters, provided health services to Guatemalans in the most remote areas of the country.

Trusted and appreciated in the villages, the ACPC staff and health promoters accompanied the medical professionals and helped with English/Spanish translations and/or indigenous dialects.

Surgical missions

Patients identified in mobile medical missions, patients from the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program, and others identified by ACPC Health Promoters were scheduled to receive needed surgery from teams of volunteer medical professionals from Canada and the United States organized by PfS/ACPC and from groups organized by Hospital Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro.

Operations were performed at Hospital Niño Jesús and Hospital Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro in Antigua Guatemala.

PfS/ACPC staff coordinated the transportation, lodging, meals, laboratories, etc. of patients traveling for surgery. Each patient was always escorted by a health promoter who helped with translations to local dialects and who provided all the support needed during the surgical weeks and after.

What comes next

Above all, we want to continue helping change the lives of rural Guatemalans through medical care. We touched thousands of lives in 2017, and we can only hope to touch thousands more in the following months. From infant to elder, every individual should have the chance to make the most of their lives in good health, and if we have the opportunity to provide that, we will.

We wish you a wonderful new year.

One of our medical missions cheerful team
One of our medical missions cheerful team
Puerto Rico students also took part in a mission
Puerto Rico students also took part in a mission


Oct 11, 2017

Why we must follow up


Patient stories


Keila is a nine-year-old who attended our rural mission day a couple of months ago at the National Hospital in La Tinta.

Born with a cleft lip and palate, Keila was three when her mother took her to a hospital at Retalhuleu to repair her cleft lip. Unfortunately, there was no follow up and no organization to help her receive corrective surgery for her cleft palate.

Two years ago, teeth started to grow and come out through her upper lip, for which she received ridicule from other children, forcing her to use a cloth to cover her face in public.

We have already scheduled Keila to have both maxillofacial and cleft palate surgery by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team coming to Guatemala this month. As part of our support, she will be escorted to and from the hospital site and provided with post-operative assistance.

Keila wants to go back to school without feeling embarrassed and eventually become a teacher. Through our assistance we will be helping to make her dreams come true.


Yesenia is a girl from Totonicapan who was part of our nutritional program. Three years ago, we did her lip and palate surgeries, but she still has a small opening in her palate that will be corrected this month.

Thanks to her timely initial surgeries and our speech therapy, Yesenia can speak very well. Our health promoter, Migdalia, who visited her every month for 2 years, told us "I feel like she is one of my own, I love her and love seeing her happy and healthy".

Thanks to our donors, friends, partners and incredible volunteers like Migdalia, "happy and healthy" are two words that we are able to put together for many of our patients.

Upcoming surgical missions

On October 31 and November 7, 2017, our Guatemalan based counterpart, Asociación Compañero Para Cirugía, will be evaluating patients at no cost in Antigua Guatemala for the next surgical rounds. 

Previous missions

Between June 1st and August 31, 2017, the Faces of Hope team was able to perform 32 cleft lip and 17 cleft palate surgeries, among other procedures.

Our cleft infant nutrition program

Between June 1st and August 31, 2017, we had 218 children enrolled in our cleft infant nutrition program. This program helps children gain weight and strength prior to surgery.

To help our nutrition program, we also created an amazon wish list with a much-needed item: manual breast pumps. These pumps help children born with a cleft lip and palate receive all the nutrition they need without having to resort to formula, which can cost as much as $600 per child. Paired with feeding bottles, breast pumps provide a cost-effective option prior to surgery.

We have received several breast pumps already, which are being taken in person to Guatemala and reaching the mothers in need.

Thank you 

We feel absolutely honored and privileged to continue to receive so much support for our work. As we look at the struggles taking place in so many regions at the same time, we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of a team that is able to help so many in need in rural Guatemala.

We wish you health and happiness.

Yesenia and Migdalia
Yesenia and Migdalia


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