Since the Iowa Miles of Smiles Team (MOST) became a non-profit organization in 2006, the Muscatine Rotary Club has financially supported its mission to help Guatemalans with cleft lip and palate recover and lead normal lives. On Monday, August 26th, Iowa MOST Project Team Leader Deb Dunkhase came to speak to the Muscatine Rotary Club and share with them how their generous donations over the past thirteen years have touched countless lives and furthered their mission to do good in the world.
Founded as a joint project between Rotary District 6000 in Iowa and the Huehuetenango Rotary Club in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Iowa MOST provides free cleft lip and palate surgeries to children and adults from all parts of Guatemala and bordering cities in Mexico.
A fairly common group of birth defects (one in 700 babies have either cleft lip, cleft palate, or both) many developed countries, like the United States, can treat it early in a child’s life to prevent it from causing problems. However, in countries like Guatemala, which have a less developed health care system, children with cleft lip or palate frequently go untreated, causing problems with breathing, eating, and speaking. Additionally, many rural areas consider people with cleft lip or palate socially unacceptable, and do not allow children with these conditions to socialize normally or go to school. By providing free surgeries, Iowa MOST helps people suffering from these conditions lead normal, healthy lives in their communities.
Each year when Iowa MOST goes on their ten-day mission trip to Huehuetenango, they screen roughly one hundred children. The group never refuses to see a child a family brings in, even if they do not have a cleft lip or palate. In addition to helping people with these conditions, Iowa MOST also performs tonsillectomies, inserts ear tubes, and hopes to find an ophthalmologist to begin removing cataracts as well.
After Iowa MOST screens children, its doctors determine if each patient qualifies for surgery. If a child does not meet the health requirements to undergo surgery at the time, Iowa MOST stays in touch with the family in between mission trips and helps get them the nutrition support their child might need to help get them strong enough for a future surgery.
For children (and sometimes adults) who can undergo surgery, Iowa MOST performs the cleft lip and palate surgeries and then sends them home with clear after care instructions. Iowa MOST also provides free transportation vouchers to allow patients and their families follow up visits after the mission trip finishes.
As Iowa MOST prepares for its 2020 trip, it looks forward to the continued support of the Muscatine Rotary Club. During her talk, Dunkhase stated, “we’re really grateful to your club because they donate a lot to Iowa MOST each year.” Through their annual dues and special fundraising activities, the Muscatine Rotary Club looks forward to lending more support to Iowa MOST this year. Dunkhase also encourages individuals interested to donate by visiting their website, https://iowamost.org/donate-now/.