Last weekend and earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending some time with the folks at CleftPALS Queensland – the cleft lip and palate support network for people affected by cleft in Queensland, Australia (there are also other branches of CleftPALS in other Australian states).
Thank you very much to all, especially to Belinda, for making me feel so incredibly welcome – it was a real privilege to talk to families, health professionals, as well as other young adults affected by cleft, and I was pleased to be pitched such thoughtful questions. One thing that I have come to realise over the years is that although we all live in different parts of the world, we are generally walking a pretty similar journey, and although the way that cleft lip and palate is managed at a healthcare level varies a bit from country to country, the thoughts, feelings, questions, challenges and triumphs that we have from growing up with, or supporting someone to grow up who is affected by, cleft are much the same.
A personal highlight of the trip for me, was meeting with other people of a similar age to me who also are walking this journey – I feel that we have so much to learn from each other, and I always feel so encouraged meeting other young people willing to share their journeys and experiences – it’s reassuring to have people to share those “me too” moments with as so often it can feel as if our experiences are so unique that nobody else quite understands – thanks very much to Ellie, Briony and Alexandra – it was a pleasure meeting and chatting with you!
I also had the privilege of spending Wednesday morning with Belinda from CleftPALS to share trans-Tasman knowledge and ideas. I found this incredibly useful, and a great way to build rapport between those of us around the world with the same ambition – to improve the lives of those affected by cleft. I’m excited going into my new role in the UK having connections both with Australia and New Zealand and keeping in touch, as it is clear we can learn from each other and save ourselves from reinventing the wheel. Belinda and I discussed some exciting new ideas we have of keeping the international cleft community better connected, so let’s watch this space!
Thanks again to all those from CleftPALS who I had the pleasure of interacting with – it was lovely to meet you, make some Australian friends, and I look forward to keeping the collaboration going!
Photos used with permission from CleftPALS Queensland.