ROTOCLEFT – Cleft Palate Surgery Missions

ROTOCLEFT – Cleft Palate Surgery Missions



ROTOCLEFT, aptly called The Angels of the Andes, was originated by Rotarians from a number of Rotary Clubs in District 6950 on Florida’s West Coast. The aim was to organize and fund a yearly surgical mission to provide free corrective surgery for children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate deformities.These deformities are a staggering problem along the Andean chain. Without a modern health care delivery system, the children of the indigent Indian population have, in the past, been left to suffer. ROTOCLEFT cannot find the causes of these tragic misfortunes, be it genetic variances or dietary deficiencies. ROTOCLEFT tries, in a small way, to let poor families have beautiful, smiling children. That ROTOCLEFT has done and done well.

Originally, ROTOCLEFT in 1998 went to Huanuco, Peru in the mountain area. ROTOCLEFT drew on the experiences of another ROTARY group from the San Francisco area that had sent a mission into Chile to do cleft lip and cleft palate surgery in that country. Much more help was provided by Rotarians from the Chicago area, who have a general surgery mission called Operation Condor that goes to Peru every fall.ROTOCLEFT is currently a collaborative effort of Rotary Clubs of Rotary District 6950 in Florida and the Rotary Club of Chiclayo Norte, Peru. Chiclayo is a center of 600,000+ people some 50 miles south of the Ecuador border along the Pacific coast. Temperatures vary between 65 and 80 degrees. The local Indian population, known as the Quechuans, have no written language. For the most part, they are undereducated and not well integrated into the local society. They are primarily subsistence farmers who trade their excess for what needs they cannot grow. The children have a very high incidence of cleft palate and cleft lip deformities. Four prior ROTOCLEFT missions had been in the original mission destination of Huanuco, making a difference in the life of their children. This year will be our fourth mission to Chiclayo and working with the Chiclayo Norte Rotary Club.

How does all this happen?

Typically, the stated goal of performing 30 to 40 surgical procedures during a 3 day period has been established and then the necessities to reach that goal have been defined: The first thing needed is a team of professional people who are willing to give up to 1 week of their lives and pay their own expenses just to give some kids a chance. The medical community has been overwhelming in its response. Likewise, members of area Rotary Clubs have been anxious to fill the non-medical staffing requirements.

A typical ROTOCLEFT team consists of:

  • A mission director (coordinator)
  • 2-3 surgeons
  • 2-3 anesthesiologists
  • 2-6 operating room nurses (or surgical techs)
  • 1-2 recovery room nurses
  • Several non-medical volunteers for the recovery room, pediatric ward and various other duties
  • A finance officer
  • 2-4 bi-lingual facilitators
  • And, a team of variable numbers for dental and auxiliary Rotary projects

Performing 2-3 simultaneous surgeries in a single operating room, the team schedules 4 or 5 surgeries each morning and another 4 or 5 each afternoon. On Saturday the team heads back to Lima and from there to Tampa, arriving in Tampa on Sunday afternoon.

How do ROTOCLEFT project work?

A typical team has consisted of approximately 25 people who limit their baggage. The team takes everything as checked baggage. All of the hundreds of things necessary to successfully perform delicate surgical procedures in what can be an austere environment have to be carried. There is no feasible alternative.Typically, the team departs Tampa on an evening for Lima and travels from Lima to Chiclayo. The next day used to be spent setting up the operating room, establishing patient flow, performing triage and admitting the children to be operated on for the first surgery day. Now, we work with Cirplast, a Peruvian organization, who does triage and physicals as much as three weeks ahead our mission. Our mission, as a result is now 3-4 days instead of a full week.

Where does the money come from?

Astronomical start-up expenses for the first mission resulted in a budget of over $50,000. Fourteen-thousand dollars was raised from Rotary clubs in the community at large. A $14,000 matching grant was received from Rotary District 6950 and another matching grant of some $24,000 was received from Rotary International. Considering that it costs over $6,500 for the equipment for 1 surgery and there is an absolute need for 6 sets, the start-up costs were high.

Rotary Internationals funding is limited to a single grant for several years. Efforts of this nature are on the assumption that if it works well follow-up funding can be generated locally. This has proven to be the case with ROTOCLEFT. Subsequent missions have been primarily funded by local Rotary Clubs with some significant donations from the community at large. All the surgical instruments have been retained and reused with almost no loss at all. Local hospitals and medical suppliers have been more than generous in donating sutures, clothing and medications.

Peru has stringent rules on the introduction of certain drugs and medical supplies that require pre-purchase of these items from a Peruvian supplier for drop shipment to Chiclayo. Sevo, by itself, accounts for cash outlays of over $300/bottle.

To provide accountability, all ROTOCLEFT funds are channeled through The Rotary Club of Seminole Lake Charitable Foundation, Inc., a 501c(3) corporation. This procedure permits for income tax deduction.

ROTOCLEFT has no employees and incurs no fund-raising expenses. All administrative expenses are absorbed by local Rotarians.


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