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Sophia Jones is a senior studying journalism and art history at the University of Alabama. Roll Tide! Sophia tries to live her life like the sun—burning to be brilliant and vowing to always rise up again. Writing is her love language. She is currently an editorial assistant for Alabama Alumni Magazine, and has written for publications such as, “The Crimson White,” Alabama Heritage magazine, Alpine Living magazine, the ”Tuscaloosa News,” Tusk205.com and Teton Home & Living Magazine. As a journalist, Sophia writes to inform. As a creative writer, Sophia strives to inspire. Overall, she hopes to captivate. Culture—food, language, people, music and art—is her kryptonite. Sophia has an unwavering belief in the power of a genuine smile, a home-cooked meal, and rock-n-roll.

Charity Spotlight: Transforming Faces

Photo Credit: Transforming faces was able to treat Nattanon in Thailand, a child with a former cleft lip who is now achieving in grade 3.

Photo Credit: Transforming faces was able to treat Nattanon in Thailand, a child with a former cleft lip who is now achieving in grade 3.

Transforming Faces is a Canadian charity working to provide free comprehensive cleft palate care for children and adults in developing countries through multidisciplinary medical teams. Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth anomalies in the world. Transforming Faces uses audiologists, orthodontists, social workers, speech therapists, surgeons and dentists to treat cleft palates with comprehensive care, and give children a chance at a full, healthy life.


Nonprofit Name: Transforming Faces

344 Bloor Street West, Suite 208
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3A7

Website: www.transformingfaces.org

Twitter: @TransformFaces

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/TransformingFaces

Mission/About: Transforming Faces is a small Canadian charity that provides free multi-disciplinary cleft care for children and adults in developing countries. We work in partnership with local cleft specialists and fund community-based medical teams. 

We go beyond the initial surgery, meaning wherever possible our local cleft teams include:

  • audiologists
  • dentists
  • nurse co-ordinators
  • orthodontists
  • social workers
  • speech therapists
  • surgeons

Our hope is that children and adults with cleft lip and palate can access local, comprehensive care that will allow them to lead full and happy lives.

When and who founded the nonprofit? In 1999, Jackie Elton, a UK-based businesswoman, and Jo Jamieson, a Canadian international development worker, founded Transforming Faces Worldwide in Toronto, Ontario.

Jackie was born with cleft lip and palate and had received excellent, early treatment in England. One evening, in the mid 1990s, she saw a TV program about children born with cleft lip and palate in the developing world who either received very inadequate treatment or no treatment at all. She was determined to help.

Jo’s career was spent in the NGO sector of international development, with 25 years of experience in India, where she and Jackie first met. The two women talked about creating an organization to help marginalized families deal with cleft lip and palate. They formed a strong board of directors, incorporated in April 1999 and, once the program model was fully formed, registered with the Canadian government in 2004.

From a shared vision and caring concern for others, Transforming Faces emerged to provide funding, support and encouragement to improve the quality of long-term cleft management in developing countries by working alongside local organizations committed to the full development of the individual.

Photo Credit: After surgery and therapy sessions with Transforming Faces, Florence Abban is now a successful child with many friends.

Photo Credit: After surgery and therapy sessions with Transforming Faces, Florence Abban is now a successful child with many friends.

Is the organization a 501c3? Not yet – we are a registered charity in Canada and working to get our charity status in the US. In the meantime, American donors can donate via the American Fund for Charities and selecting “Transforming Faces Worldwide”.

What is your EIN? N/A (Our Canadian Charitable Registration Number is 86720 4034 RR0001)

Link to your organization on Charity Navigator N/A (The Canadian equivalent is Imagine Canada’s Ethical Code, which we are a part of. The Ethical Fundraising and Financial Accountability Code lays out a set of standards for charitable organizations to manage and report their financial affairs responsibly. By adhering to these standards, we are complying with generally accepted practices for soliciting and managing donor dollars. You can also view our Canada Revenue Agency Registered Charity Information Return)

Link to your organization on GuideStar – N/A

How efficient is your nonprofit? What percentage of donations of all product and financial donations received go toward helping others vs. administrative expenses? We direct 100% of all donations to our cleft programs for children around the world, thanks to a private charitable foundation which covers our low overhead & administration expenses. For more on this and how donations are used, you can visit:  http://www.transformingfaces.org/giving/donate/your-gifts-at-work/

Could you describe the nonprofit? Our main mandate at Transforming Faces is to provide strong, child-focused partnerships with medical teams in developing countries.

We support the development of local, multidisciplinary medical teams, which encourages medical professionals to practice in their home countries and builds the capacity of health systems to improve the quality of life of their citizens.

All members of the multidisciplinary team have specific training in cleft care. Opportunities for further education and training are provided to ensure continual upgrading of skills and maintaining the standard of care. A process is in place for evaluation of the quality of care to ensure standards are upheld.


Photo Credit: Florence Abban, as a baby, and her supportive family

Photo Credit: Florence Abban, as a baby, and her supportive family

We go beyond the initial surgery to provide long-term care, based on the needs of each patient. Every effort is made by the team to provide patients and their families long-term assessment and treatment (rehabilitation) in the areas of audiology, dental care, orthodontics, ENT, feeding, speech, psycho-social support and surgery.

Where are you based and what sets the organization apart? We are based in Toronto, Canada. However, all of our work is carried out by local medical teams in Thailand & Laos, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Peru and Argentina.

What sets Transforming Faces apart?

  • 100% of donations are directed to cleft care, thanks to a private charitable foundation that covers our low overhead.
  • We are Canadian and independent
  • We are committed to comprehensive cleft care
  • Community sustainability is a priority. We work in partnership with community groups, building local skills and opportunities
  • We are small, flexible and responsive to new opportunities
  • We address children’s short-term and long-term needs
  • We are a values-driven, non-faith-based organization and offer support to all children regardless of race, gender, culture, religion or family background.
  • We are highly transparent in all our practices and accountable to the children and families we serve, as well as the supporters who make our work possible
  • Our method is endorsed by the American Cleft Palate – Craniofacial Association

What initiatives is the organization currently working on?

Apart from our day-to-day project activities that allow children to access local, comprehensive cleft care, we are working on some specific projects:

(Photo Credit: Transforming Faces)

(Photo Credit: Transforming Faces)

  • Thailand is considered to have one of the highest incidences of cleft lip and palate in the world. Yet, no studies or databases regarding the geographical incidence cleft lip and palate currently exists. TF is supporting Tawanchai Foundation’s initiative to implement cleft lip and palate registration in 75 hospitals. The registry would like to establish a system that will allow government officials to see the scope of the incidence of cleft lip and palate. It will also help medical staff to collect statistics for research and ensure that timely surgery and on-going rehabilitation is provided.
  • Transforming Faces decided develop an Electronic Medical Records and Workflow (EMRW) system as part of its monitoring and evaluation process. For 14 years, TF has provided comprehensive rehabilitation to more than 10,000 cleft lip and palate patients using a model that empowers local medical specialists with many successes.
    TF and its partners want to collect more empirical data to better assess the impact of our approach and to share this knowledge with the international cleft community. We set out to do this in a way that would be most efficient for our partners and would allow them to devote more of their time to patient care rather than administrative work. With this in mind, we chose to create a workflow system that will allow efficient patient care, with data collection as a by-product.
  • Speech Therapy Program in Ethiopia: There is a need for establishing speech therapy training at the university level in Ethiopia. Currently, there is one trained speech therapist in a country of approximately 80 million people. The program will be housed at the Addis Ababa University’s Department of Special Needs Education and has received some seed funds from the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Building in Higher Education and Research for development (NORHED), in order to develop the curriculum.  Transforming Faces has begun reaching out to Canandian universities and organizations in the hopes of contributing to an Ethiopian-led diploma program in Speech Therapy.
  • The Implementation of E-Technology in Community-Based Project (E-Technology Project) is a mobile app that will be piloted to improve speech and hearing services for children living in rural areas of India.

What annual fundraising events does the organization hold? We host two annual fundraising events in Toronto. The first is the Beautiful Before & After Gala – held each spring. The second is Salsa for Smiles – a fun salsa-inspired event which occurs in the Fall.

What achievements is the organization most proud of? As our name implies, we transform the faces of the young children we support. But that’s not the full story. The impact of our work truly transforms lives.

Comprehensive cleft care improves children’s physical and psychological health dramatically. They speak better. They eat easier. Their teeth and jaws are aligned. They feel more confident. They start to attend and/or do well in school. And their parents rest easy.

I think we’re most proud of seeing our patients (like Nattanon and Florence) grow up, go to school and be accepted in their communities. We also celebrated 10 years of partnership in Ghana and have achieved significant milestones with respect to getting cleft lip and palate included within their health service.

Do you work with any brands on cause marketing products or services? No, not at this time.

Photo Credit: Nattanon and his father after Nattanon's surgery

Photo Credit: Nattanon and his father after Nattanon’s surgery

How can people get involved? TF welcomes donations, fundraising and awareness building!

100% of donations are directed to cleft care. Donations of $20/month or $200+ are matched by a private charitable foundation – so it’s a great way to double your impact.

Fundraising on our behalf is also a great way to raise awareness and transform lives – whether it be a bake sale, giving in lieu of birthday gifts or cashing in your closet – there are plenty of ways to get involved! You can find out more at www.transformingfaces.org/giving/fundraise/

You can also raise awareness – visit our website (www.transformingfaces.org), follow us on Twitter (@TransformFaces), friend us on Facebook(www.facebook.com/TransformingFaces), or sign up for news (http://eepurl.com/kEhSP)

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