This is a project that I am currently undertaking, and I just thought I would share the details with you all!
Experiencing the orphanage environment in China with my FCC group last summer was undoubtedly a unique and moving experience. One of the experiences that stand out was feeding a baby with a cleft palate at the Starfish Foster Home in Xian. This little girl was probably just over a year old, and had the brightest eyes and most curious expression. Bottle in hand, I fed her for over 40 minutes. However, it was quite a frustrating task for her to get any formula from the bottle with her cleft palate. She would attempt to take in as much formula as possible with each suck, but would end up intaking more air than actual formula. This process was very tedious for both her, and for myself, for I had to be very patient and hold very still. Unfortunately, when a baby sucks in too much air, they throw up, and in fact, my little girl threw up after spending so much time trying to get some milk.
Although the Starfish Foster Home receives generous donations from oversea benefactors and supporters, they still need a lot of help in caring for their babies. About 20 percent of the children at the home had cleft lips, and the entire staff used the generic baby bottle for feeding the children. Since I had gained firsthand experience with feeding cleft babies, a desire to reach out and help cleft palate children took place, and after coming home from the trip, I did a lot of research in the fall and early winter about the defect.
The frequency of babies with clef t palates is four times as more common in Asian babies than in Caucasian babies. Cleft palates can come in many severity levels, and can be corrected with a surgery, usually costing a few thousand US dollars. However, after more extensive research, I learned that there were special bottles, designed for cleft palate children, that were relatively inexpensive , about 2 dollars US a piece, made by Mead Johnson. This could make a huge difference for the orphans in china with cleft palates. Since the one child policy has created a desire for a perfect child, many Chinese families will leave cleft babies in orphanages. This is why the prevalence of cleft babies in orphanages is exceedingly high. The need for proper equipment for these children such as cleft palate bottles will ensure better nutrition, and reduce the frustration of the baby and caretaker.
Realizing that there did exist a way to help these children, I have undertaken a service project in collaboration with Love Without Boundaries. It is my hope that Starfish Foster Home gets the first shipment of bottles, and then be distributed to other facilities that have a need. I am proud that I am helping make a small difference for these children.
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