Every year, one in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate.1 Without corrective surgery, these children are often ostracized from their communities, and have trouble eating, sleeping and speaking. Even worse, a child with cleft lip faces greater odds of not seeing their first birthday.2
Corrective surgery for cleft lip is widely practiced, safe, and can be done in as little time as 45 minutes.2 However, in impoverished parts of the world, families cannot afford to pay for surgery. Thus, though treatment is available, many children with cleft lips are forced to suffer through life with a facial deformity, simply because of their economic status.
Dr. Ricardo Bennun, recipient of the 2007 World of Children Health Award, is changing that. In 1995, he gave up a highly successful career as a plastic surgeon to open a free clinic in one of Buenos Aires’ poorest barrios. The clinic, Asociación PIEL, provides free treatment and surgery for children with devastating birth defects, tumors and other facial deformities.
We honored Dr. Bennun in 2007 at our annual World of Childrens Ceremony and gave him funding to advance his work. He used our funding to rebuild Asociación PIEL’s hospital, add new specialists to his team, and buy new medical and surgical instruments, dramatically improving his team’s ability to care for patients.
“Winning my first World of Children in 2007 was really incredible,” Dr. Bennun said. “It opened new horizons and allowed me to meet so many people who dedicate their lives to help children in need.”
Since being honored, Dr. Bennun and his team have provided surgery and rehabilitation for more than 2,000 children in Argentina. Our Founders, Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz and Harry Leibowitz, recently had the chance to visit Asociación PIEL and see for themselves how our funding has made a life-changing difference.
“Parents knew that their kids had a new life because of surgery,” said Kay after meeting some of the patients and their families. “They would look with tears in their eyes and say, ‘my child’s life has been saved.'”
But Dr. Bennun is not only concerned about helping children today; he is also making extraordinary strides to help generations to come. After receiving our Award, he developed a state-of-the-art, affordable device for babies with cleft lips and palates. The device helps soft tissue adjust before surgery, ensuring an easier, cheaper, and less complicated procedure later on. This device has been so tremendously effective that it is now being used around the world.
After being honored, Dr. Bennun was also asked to take a position as a professor at Maimonides University in Buenos Aires, where he instituted a post graduate training program in Craniofacial and Pediatric Reconstructive Surgery so that future surgeons can continue treating children with cleft lips.
In a few short days, we will be honoring Dr. Bennun once again at our inaugural Alumni Honors in Beverly Hills.
“Being recognized again in 2015 with the Alumni Honors by World of Children makes me feel like I am living a dream,” Dr. Bennun told us. “Honorees from all over the world are very special people who make big efforts, in difficult areas and conditions, and that make my work look quite insignificant. This Award helps me to work harder believing that to change the world is still possible.”
If you can’t join us in Beverly Hills for our exciting new Alumni Honors event, consider making a donation to support the work of our Honorees. Your generosity will dramatically improve the lives of children around the world. Make a Donation >>