Thursday, 10 April 2014

Facing the World

About Facing the World

Facing the World is a UK charity that provides life-changing craniofacial surgery to many of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children in the world. The medical team has strong knowledge on many disciplines. They make facial reconstructive surgery in the UK for children from the developing countries with severe facial disfigurements. Those children cannot be treated in their home countries.

The organization also provides training for some hospitals in partnership in order to develop the infrastructure required for more children to receive the treatment they need in their own countries.

The founders

Facing the World was created by Martin Kelly and Norman Waterhouse (craniofacial surgeons) in 2002. Martin was a volunteer in Afghanistan with the organization Children in Need. During his time there he met a young girl called Hadisa. At eight months old, she was carried hundreds of miles by her father to receive a treatment. The medical facilities in Kabul were not equipped to deal with the severity of Hadisa’s condition that's why Martin decided Hadisa’s only option was to come to London for treatment.

In order to help other children like Hadisa they founded Facing the World.

Martin Kelly passed away in 2008, letting a motivated team behind him, wanting to carry on with his initiative. So far Facing the World has treated over 40 patients in the UK, and more than 90 through the Vietnam Project.

The project in Vietnam

In 2008, Facing the World began a partnership with Danang General Hospital in Vietnam. Vietnam has a higher incidence of children born with severe facial disfigurement than almost anywhere else in the world. Some believe this to be linked to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Viet waiting in the hospital
Facing the World team came from London two weeks a year to train and perform surgeries with the local team in Danang. Some training was also organized for Vietnamese surgeons going in the UK for a short period of time. A web based telemedicine was created to link the surgeons in London and Danang to facilitate the treatment of the most complex cases in Vietnam.

Thanks to this program, more than 100 patients, both children and adults, are seen each year, receiving the surgery and support care that they need.

Exotic Voyages and Facing the World 

Exotic Voyages feels very inspired by this program. In many cases Facing the World saved a child’s life through surgery, and this means a lot to us. Children represent the smiles of Vietnam, the future generations and our best pride. In some other cases, Facing the World gives children a chance to be accepted in a society full of prejudices and judgments on physical appearance.  This project can bring a lot to the children: it helps them build projects and believe in their future; they gain back their self-confidence, then can finally flourish and live again without their handicap. But it also teaches a lot to our society showing that behind each body is a soul full of potential and creativity, a soul that can surprise you beyond any barriers.

This is the reason why Exotic Voyages strongly want to be involved in this fantastic adventure through a partnership with Facing the World. We are deeply reflecting on how we could participate, make a change and lighten lives. There are many possibilities and we will find the one fitting the needs and capacities of both Facing the World and Exotic Voyages.

It is something very important to us and therefore some projects might come up very soon!

Some Stories

Pan before her surgery
Pan was born with an encephalocele, a rare defect, caused by a failure of the neural tube to close completely during pregnancy.  The disfigurement, this left her at continual risk of meningitis or brain haemorrhage.
She lived and never left her community on the Mekong Delta, and only dared venture beyond her village with a blanket covering her face. She was raised by her cousin who because her stepfather didn’t accept her. She spent most of her time alone as she had no friends and her cousin couldn’t afford to send her to school.
Pan after the surgery

Marianne Carsons, who was touring through the region in 2004, met 16-year-old Pan and was touched by her story.  She contacted Facing the World, who brought Pan to London for treatment. After life-saving surgery, Pan returned to her village and got accepted and also respected as she was one of the few people who had ever left the region.  For the first time in her life she was able to mix happily with others.

Viet before the surgery

Viet suffered a bilateral facial cleft going through his cheekbones and up into his eyes, which sadly means he will never be able to see.  He also had a cleft palate, which causes problems with eating and communicating. Viet’s parents worried that he would never be accepted in society - his prospects were very bleak. Facing the World’s medical team accepted Viet for surgery in the UK, in February 2012.

Viet and his mother after the surgery
Three weeks later, Viet had surgery to close the cleft and to reconstruct both eyelids.  Following a rapid recovery from these operations, he saw an ophthalmologist, a cleft feeding specialist, and a speech therapist.  He made rapid improvement, producing more sounds using his new palate, eating, growing and developing well for a child of his age.
Facing the World have found follow-up care for Viet in Vietnam, and  Children’s Hope in Action want to provide him with education at a local blind school.  Here he is, enjoying a sunny afternoon in the park a few weeks before he went home.

Marion Nourrisson

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Building Schools in Ba Be Distric

Ba Be district is a poor area in mountainous Northeast Vietnam, home to a national park in Bac Kan province. It remains a rural area far from mass tourism; hiking lovers know it for its beautiful lake and landscapes.

After leading some tours in Ba Be, our director, Exotic Voyage’s founder could witness the poor living conditions of local families and, above all, the old schools that were just made of tatted shacks, which is very chilly in winter. Some schools were also situated in remote locations, and the kids had to walk through a fast flowing rivers and rice fields to reach it. Thus, he decided to find better places and to build new schools for the children.

Exotic Voyages team started a harsh journey to find nice places to build the schools. It was harder than we thought. We needed to buy pieces of lands by ourselves and grant it for the local educational authority. The distance from our office in Hanoi (5 hours for nearly 300 kilometers) was one of the biggest challenges we had to face because lots of journeys were required to fix administration or building problems. However the investment and efforts, we felt ecstatic to bring happiness and better working conditions to the kids.

At the beginning, the idea was to build one school and follow the evolution of the students in their new environment, but the project grew and got a bigger impact.

From 2004 to 2008 Exotic Voyages constructed 5 kindergarten schools in the area, each time with the same energy and the same envy to change lives.
This passionate investment improved the education of about 250 children in Ba Be District:
2004 : Pac Ngoi Village.
2005: Nam Mau Village
2006: Na Hai Na Vai Village
2007: Dong Phu Village
2008: Lom Village

Exotic Voyages team followed this initiative by a great number of trips in Ba Be district to bring necessary studying tools for the children: pens, papers, books, clothes and blankets as well to protect the families against the cold winter times.  

On the first day of school we could hear the laughs reasoning in the classrooms. The emotion of the children was spreading around and got us as well. This was a great chance for them to gather in a safe and equipped environment, to learn in good conditions and be inspired for a great future.

Helping children has been Exotic Voyage’s motto since the company was founded. As a responsible travel agency we like to be close to the communities, know them, their issues and participate to make their life better. We are mostly engaged for the children as they represent the future, the new generations. We want them to grow happy and with all the necessary tools to be able to realize their dreams.

 Exotic Voyages wants to carry on with other projects in Ba Be district. We are seeking for new and vivid ideas to bring hope in the communities and lighten those children’s lives. Don’t hesitate to contact us to share any idea you might have, or any support you could bring.

Marion Nourrisson