Our visit to Malawi

Last year we were delighted to announce Cleft Free Malawi, a new collaboration with Operation Smile.

Cleft Free Malawi is an ambitious project with two aims:

  • To eradicate the backlog of cleft patients in Malawi
  • To provide the training and support to Malawian health care professionals in order to build a sustainable and self-perpetuating ability to provide cleft care in the country

As we approach the end of the first year of this project, The Kentown Wizard Foundation wanted to visit Malawi to see first hand the incredible work that is being done and to understand more about the country.

This being said, our CEO Margaret Ingram proceeded to do just that and on the 3rd of April boarded a flight to Lilongwe. Below is an account of Margaret’s visit in her own words.

As I left Lilongwe airport I was instantly struck by how green and beautiful the country is. Before arriving I had imagined a dry, red landscape but the rain over the previous few weeks had brought everything to life.

Over the next five days I observed the medical mission and talked to many of the volunteers taking part. For me, it was a very humbling experience. The dedication and commitment of these volunteers is unquestionable – many of those I spoke to have been giving their time and considerable skills to Operation Smile missions for many years.

In between meeting volunteers I was able to observe every stage of the registration and assessment process. The dignity and patience of the Malawian mothers and fathers who brought their children for surgery was incredible and although the process was lengthy and tedious, there were smiles and good humour everywhere I looked.

On day four, I observed three operations and was completely awe struck by the skill of the surgeons. These surgeons really do change the lives of these children forever.

I had by now seen the entire process from start to finish but had not yet seen the aftereffects of these life changing procedures. It was at this point that I was taken to a remote village to meet the beautiful Sarah.

Sarah was 2 years old at the time and 6 months prior to my visit had received her surgery. It is extremely difficult for me to find words to describe the overwhelming feeling I had being introduced to such incredibly strong and happy family. During my visit, Sarah’s mother explained the struggles the family faced prior to Sarah’s surgery and the complete transformation this has had on their daughter’s future.

Having had this chance to witness Operation Smile’s work first hand I am certain in the knowledge that the Foundation’s money is being well spent and that Cleft Free Malawi will be a lasting legacy for our founder Ken Townsley.

I will always remember what one of the volunteers said to me while discussing Operation Smile missions:

“You think you are healing the children but really they are healing you”

and as I begin my return journey home, I could not agree more.

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