This is a recount of my time in Honduras with Elsi, a little girl with a cleft palate.
Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.
In this post I am sharing about a little girl I met in the village of Santa Elena, Honduras named Elsi.
The mission team of 61 Isaiah Ministries first met Elsi about 3 years ago. She lives in a remote village up in the mountains in Honduras. She was born with a severe cleft palate and lip. The mission team was able to to arrange for her to have surgery to have her cleft palate repaired. Due to malnutrition, in Elsi’s first surgery, doctor’s were only able to repair her lip and nose. Her family was provided with a special bottle and formula, to help her gain weight and a second surgery was scheduled.
The second surgery was initially successful. However, the parents did not follow post op feeding and care guidelines, and Elsi’s stitches ripped open. A third surgery was scheduled. The third surgery had the same results. Elsi’s parents continued to allow her to eat tortillas and chips and things, and a portion of her palate reopened.
Elsi is now 5 years old, and I had the opportunity to meet her on my visit to Santa Elena. I already knew about Elsi when I arrived in the village, but I did not know how well she could eat or talk. When I first came across Elsi, she was happy and friendly, though very shy. She played with me a while and even opened her mouth so I could see that she does still have a hole about the size of a quarter in soft palate.
I watched Elsi eat with no trouble. I saw that, though she is small, she appears to be healthy and happy. The big thing I noticed was how little she spoke. She did have some words, though I felt that she could be speaking more at this point.
I met with Elsi’s parents in their home. They told me about Elsi’s history and even mentioned that they had another surgery scheduled for this past January, but did not make it. They said they were pleased with her progress since she is now able to eat and is beginning to speak more. The challenge I faced was trying to encourage this family to try and get her to another surgery and to follow the post-op guidelines. I explained that she would be able to speak more clearly and would be better off in the long run if they could get her palate fully repaired.
I also tried to give them some training and tips on how to work with her to build her vocabulary even now. However, in the remote villages of Honduras, school is not the same as in the bigger towns. There are no books. No television. They have limited electricity and limited running water. Elsi will attend school, but most likely only until 6th grade. There will be no speech therapy.
Before we left the village that day, some of the teenage girls from my mission team were able to spend more time with Elsi. They practiced words with her and sang with her. Elsi loves music. They also found a 9 year old cousin of Eli’s and told her to work with Elsi and teach her words.
I don’t know what Elsi’s future holds. I don’t know if she will have another surgery or not. I don’t know if her parents, cousin, or teacher will work with her. What I do know is that I did my best to give the parents some information on how to work with Elsi, and hopefully inspired them to help her as much as they can. I can also continue to pray for Elsi. Would you also pray for Elsi and the other children in world like her?
If you would like more information on Elsi or have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.