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Creating Smiles in Peru

Speech pathologist Kate sits with a young client, who is holding a book, in her lap. Both are smiling.

Left image: Speech pathologist Kate Hanrahan and a young client in Trujillo, Peru.

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to work as a volunteer in a developing country? To give back to people who really need your help?

Mikaela Bow and Kate Hanrahan, two speech pathologists from Bowral in regional New South Wales in Australia, have just returned from such an experience in Peru.

Mikaela and Kate left their jobs, families and day to day lives for 12 days to volunteer with Global Smile Foundation, who help children born with cleft palate or cleft lip in underserved parts of the world. In this instance, it was in Trujillo, Peru.

A typical trip consists of working with children with a cleft palate, however, this trip was a bit different.

Their 12-day trip involved over 235 speech therapy sessions for children and adolescents, 45 feeding sessions alongside operations, and daily education of local doctors and physiotherapists to help with ongoing care.

A typical trip consists of working with children with a cleft palate, however, this trip was a bit different. The local hospital had invited a range of patients with complex feeding and communication needs to see the visiting speech pathology team. This meant Kate and Mikaela were always thinking on their feet as sessions ranged from developing an augmentative and alternative communication system and training the family to use this, working on breath support for dysarthria, through to feeding management, and even supporting a patient with a tracheostomy.

Mikaela has been on over 12 trips over 3 years with Global Smile Foundation, but this was the first trip away for Kate, who said she loved every minute of the experience.

Speech pathologist Mikaela Bow reads with a young client.

Speech pathologist Mikaela Bow and a young client in Trujillo, Peru.

“We shared many special moments with the patients and their beautiful families, which included many tears, but also much hope. It was wonderful being able to make a difference to so many families and to be a part of such an inspiring team of people”, Kate said.

“This trip enabled us to grow personally and professionally by exposing us to a huge range of clients with limited resources and being forced to think on our feet making each session as practicable and meaningful as possible,” Mikaela added.

“It is also provided us with the opportunity to build strong connections with families and local health professionals with the aim to create a sustainable speech pathology program in the future.”

NB. Speech pathologists work with children with cleft palate have extra training to recognise and treat specific problems caused by a cleft palate. Children born with a cleft palate may need speech-language therapy to help with problems.

Kate Hanrahan and Mikaela Bow
Speech pathologists
Bowral, Australia