The Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF) is pleased to announce our 2014 CPF Leadership Award recipient is Maria Teresa Torres de Salcedo from Lima, Peru.
Each year CPF recognizes an individual or group who has demonstrated exceptional service and leadership on behalf of individuals with cleft or craniofacial anomalies. Maria Teresa was nominated by her colleagues at Transforming Faces and will be honored during the awards luncheon at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 27, 2014.
In 1997, Maria Teresa was in her last year of university when she met a child who had cleft lip and palate. At first, she thought a surgery was all he needed. However, it quickly became apparent that the child also needed psychological support and speech therapy.
“While not a health care worker, I arranged for him to get care,” she explains. “After I helped that child, I started to receive phone calls from parents seeking the same type of help.”
From then on, she began to coordinate care for children with cleft lip and palate. She witnessed the challenges that exist for children who want to access timely and adequate cleft lip and palate treatment.
In her very first year in this new-found role, Maria Teresa helped create Armonizar, a local organization that provides surgery and rehabilitation for children with cleft lip and palate. In 2007, she founded an organization called Asociación Civil Splendor to assist parents with parenting advice and support for children with learning disabilities.
Maria Teresa also saw that, despite available services, transportation was still a huge barrier to accessing health care. She decided to create a non-profit arm of Splendor in 2011, called KusiRostros, to specifically reach out to children with cleft lip and palate and their families in their own communities.
“There was a need to go to where the families were. For the families it is very expensive and difficult to get transportation to the hospital and pay for the services,” she explains.
In 2012, with the support of Transforming Faces, KusiRostros began to provide decentralized care for families of children with cleft lip and palate in Lima, Peru through four community rehabilitation centers (CRCs) in impoverished areas surrounding Lima.
Maria Teresa, the coordinator, is joined by a dentist, speech therapist, and nurse coordinator as they travel to the CRCs on a weekly basis to provide medical, feeding and counselling support for families, close to home.
The goal of the CRCs was to treat 100 children in the first year of the three year pilot project. The response was overwhelming. A total of 200 children were treated and an additional CRC was added to meet demand. Families used to travel up to two hours to receive care and pay up to $12 to receive speech therapy. Now they only have to travel 20 minutes to receive free speech treatment for their children.
Maria Teresa has now set her sights on raising awareness. She is a founding member of the newly created Peruvian Cleft Palate – Craniofacial Association because she believes there is a great need to train medical specialists and share knowledge. In the future, she hopes to create a reference center where more complex cases could be treated.
“I see that there are not just physical scars that they endure but emotional as well– and I am motivated to help,” she says.
CPF gratefully acknowledges Transforming Faces for their outstanding nomination and for sharing the above information and photos.