We are so pleased and proud that we are able to share this film. In February of this year, before the world locked-down, our UK team travelled to Addis Ababa, to oversee a cleft mission in Kadisco General Hospital, alongside our annual Complex Surgical Mission.

On this mission, we were lucky to have an amazing volunteer media team, including, Videographer Amy Sargeant and Animator Alice Parker. Amy spent time in Ethiopia with patients and their families learning their stories, and capturing the fantastic outcomes of their cleft surgeries. Back in the UK, Alice animated the individual’s stories that Amy described to her. Together they captured the lives of these individuals in such a moving way, through combining animation and interview.

This film shows both the physical and emotional struggles babies and children born with cleft undergo - and also the effect on their families. It also shows the huge impact a cleft lip or palate surgery will have on a child's life. 

The patients we met on this particular mission had travelled from rural areas of the West Hararghe Zone of Ethiopia, just one of the regions in which project Harar run their cleft programme. The patients arrived just as it begin to get dark on a hot Friday evening. We arrived to meet the families, just before they were allocated their rooms to stay in for the night - before the next morning of surgeries. The waiting room was full of babies and young children with their families. For many of these families it will have been the first time travelling to a city. 

Photo taken as the families arrived at Kadisco Hospital, Addis Ababa 

These families had been travelling all day by bus, with Abraham - a Project Harar Programme Officer. Abraham had cared and supported these families in every step of their journey to access surgery, from identifying and referring them in their home village, to arranging transport, food and accommodation. Abraham will also continue to care for them after they have their surgery, monitoring patients who may need further treatment, such as nutritional support or speech therapy.

Programme Officer – Abraham, giving toys donated by Investec, a corporate sponsor 

Over the following two days we spent time with these families and more incredibly moved by their stories. All of the patients treated were babies and young children, however we met a young man who had travelled without any family, who was 18 years old with a cleft lip. This story was particularly moving as he had lived his entire childhood and teenage years without being able to access treatment. Families from these remote and rural areas of Ethiopia have no prospect of accessing surgery for a cleft lip and palate without Project Harar. Surgery is only available in Regional Capitals of the country, for many this is over two days travel. The roads connecting rural villages to larger towns and cities are often difficult terrains, it is common for a patient to first have to walk to another larger village or town, and then take a Tuk Tuk or taxi to reach the Project Harar Bus. In the rainy season in Ethiopia these roads can become impossible to travel on by foot. The families from these areas are amongst the poorest in Ethiopia, financing the travel let alone the treatment alone would be simply unattainable for them.

We hope you enjoy the film,

Many thanks to Videographer - Amy Sargeant 

Animator - Alice Parker

Photographer - Carrie Tang