A child with cleft lip or palate presents families with various challenges. Parents experience fear and concern about the reactions of others to their child’s appearance while also trying to learn as much as possible about their child’s condition and treatment options. Guidance and support to families – particularly during the child’s first years – are essential in reducing fears and obtaining professional assistance.
Sfat Halev, an Israeli non-profit organization, established in 2014, aims to raise awareness about cleft lip and palate while providing support and assistance to families with children born with clefts. Volunteers mainly operate the organization’s services – parents of children born with clefts who wish to pass on their knowledge and experience, supporting additional families. The organization also distributes kits with special feeding gear to cleft-effected babies, enlists our professional team of volunteer doctors to speak at conferences to educate medical personnel, and more.
During its first year of operation, it became increasingly apparent that the organization addresses an essential and previously unaddressed need in Israeli society, as it is the only organization in Israel providing support, assistance, and information in Hebrew to families with cleft-effected children. In 2015 alone, we provided service and support to over 400 families, while the number of families who contact the organization’s call center increases each month.
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate are among the most common congenital disabilities, affecting approximately 1 in 700 births in Israel. A cleft lip is a gap between the two sides of the upper lip, which could also extend to the base of the nose, whereas a cleft palate is in the upper gum and jaw. The cleft forms early in pregnancy when the tissues forming the upper lip and palate fail to join together or just one of these instances. A baby can be born with either condition or both. While a cleft lip is mostly a cosmetic issue, a cleft palate often results in various feeding and speech difficulties, as well as frequent ear infections or hearing problems, depending on the size and location of the cleft. Clefts are strictly physical defects and are surgically corrected in infancy, while additional surgeries, speech therapy, and orthodontic work are also required for many children throughout their childhood and teenage years. When proper treatment is given, cleft-effected children are able to live regular normal lives.
The following is a list of the current activities and services provided by Sfat Halev:
Sfat Halev distributes special kits containing special feeding gear and accessories to new mothers of babies born with a cleft lip, palate, or both.
Sfat Halav distributes special kits to families before each surgery containing necessary gear to assist the child during the post-surgery recovery.
Sfat Halev operates a network of volunteers comprised mostly of mothers of children born with clefts. The volunteers provide one-on-one emotional support and technical information to new parents.
Sfat Halev provides legal assistance to families in understanding their rights and service from Kupat Cholim medical companies and relevant governmental offices.
Sfat Halev holds periodic retreats for mothers of children with clefts to provide them with opportunities to form support groups, share experiences, and benefit from educational lectures and joint fun activities.
Sfat Halev organizes group events throughout the year for parents and children to enable them to meet in a fun setting and share experiences and advice.
Sfat Halev initiatiates and organizes conferences throughout the country to educate various professionals who come in contact with children with clefts to provide them with relevant information and enable them to most effectively treat the children.