15 year old Wendemneh lives on the outskirts of Debre Markos  a city in the Amhara Region. When Wendemneh was born his family were not aware that treatment was possible for his cleft lip, due to a lack of understanding in their community about cleft conditions. There was also no treatment available where they lived and they did not have the means to travel to where it might be available.

The family heard about Project Harar from a health extension worker, who was doing outreach work in his area. The health worker told him that Project Harar could help him access treatment  for free  for his cleft lip. Wendemneh travelled to the hospital for treatment with his older brother Gatkuoth.

Lam told us how Wendemneh’s cleft condition had affected the family: 

It was difficult to feed him. Our mother didn’t know what to do because we didn’t know anyone affected by cleft lip, my mother struggled to feed him. After a while she had to take him to a near hospital and they showed us how to feed him. Thanks to God, he was able to speak when he grew older, although his speech wasn’t much. We found it hard to understand what he wanted to say and so it took us time to hear his words. 

“It was such a difficult life for my brother. For us as a family, it was shocking for us first. I am not going to lie. We were scared and shocked. As he started to grow up I knew it was going to be more difficult for him. Wendemneh started to see how people reacted when they saw him. He started to see how no children in his area didn’t wanted to play with him. He always used to cry back home when they insulted him and made fun of him. It used to break our heart for our brother even if I couldn’t do much. I always told him what they say to him is not true and that it has nothing to do with our family getting cursed. We were his only friends, me and his siblings. He was forced to stop attending school because of the hurtful things children would say to him. We did try to take him to school but we wanted to stay away, so we let him stay home like he wished.”

After Wendmeneh received his cleft lip surgery we asked how the family were feeling. Gatkuoth told us that it was a good deed and that they all were so thankful. Gatkuoth said that it was in God's wish that things will be good for his brother and that he will get the chance to attend school like he always wanted to. 

We asked Wendemeneh what he wanted to be when he grows up, he said:

“I wish to be doctor and help people who have been affected by this. I would love to educate people about cleft lip palate, so it won’t be that difficult for those who have been affected by this.”

Help Project Harar continue to provide vital services to families so they can access cleft lip and palate treatment.

As well as addressing the barriers associated with the distance and cost of families in rural areas reaching treatment, we work year round to break down stigma around cleft conditions and spread positive and accurate information in rural communities. This means children like Wendemeneh can lessen the barriers to accessing education.