Cleft Mission Gitwe, Rwanda|Sept, 2012

From left to right: Denny Snyder, Yesiana Pizarro, Kathy Gantz, Prabhatk, K Carrello, Tammy Wang, Claudia Benkwitz, Michelle Johnson, Tracey O’keeffe, Veronia Sherwood, Gloria Hicks, and Byron Henry.

Yesiana Pizarro-Munoz  is a valued MMFC Volunteer. She serves as Event Coordinator for our Annual Boston Gala and manages our cleft database.  In September 2012 she traveled with MMFC as the Administrator on our Rwanda Cleft mission.  

On September 14th Medical Missions for Children (MMFC) departed on its second mission this year to Gitwe, Rwanda – this time to restore lips and palates. Rwanda is located in central east Africa and few degrees south of the equator.

This mission was special; the whole team was full of first time visitors to Rwanda, with the exception of our Lead surgeon, Dr. Denny Snyder who has been to Rwanda a dozen of times, everyone was really looking forward to the experience. The team traveled about 24 hrs. to get to Gitwe.  After close to 24 hours of travel we arrived in Kigali on Saturday night at 8pm. We moved through customs and met up with Vianney, our site coordinator.  The bus drive to Gitwe, our final destination, took about two and a half hours; part of the trip was on paved highway, and the other on unpaved road, which was very bumpy and full of dust. About half way into our drive the bus suddenly stopped and everything turned pitch black. Thanks to our iPhones and quick flash lights there was light once again. Fortunately, the driver was able to start the bus but our head lights burned out.  Because we were in the middle of nowhere, with no police around, we were able to continue driving by flash light!!We were thankful to our co-pilot John for holding the flash light for over forty five minutes to lead the way.

Jean De Dieu was one of our first patients on Sunday morning. He was very quiet but seemed very excited and persistent to get his surgery done. We believe he waited most of the night at the hospital gate because when we arrived and he was the first person in line to see us.

Jean De Dieu is only 15 years old; he lives in Muhanga, Nyabinoni which is about 4 hours from Gitwe. Jean was very determined for such a young man.  He worked hard for the past three months to save money to pay for him and his mother’s transportation to Gitwe. He worked during the day feeding two cows and went to school in the afternoon.

Jean enjoys school very much, especially his teachers as they are very loving to him. He also enjoys his classmates but sometimes he feels lonely because some kids don’t like to play with him because of his deformity.

Jean expressed that his surgery will make such a difference in his life as kids will look at him differently. Yet he assures me that he will continue to be the same person on the inside, only his face will change. Most important he will focus on his studies.

Damoscene Nzabahimana is an Orphan from Kibuye. Damoscene lost both of his parents this year. When his parents passed away he had to drop out of school because he didn’t have any money for supplies, he was in 3rd grade.  Damoscene decided to travel to Gitwe to find some work; he is staying with the village pastor and working at night delivering water.  He is the youngest of his 4 siblings, all of whom left behind in Kibuye.

Damoscene actually found us by coincidence; he bumped into Vianney, as he was asking him for help in finding work. Vianney had to actually send a search party to find him because he lost him in the crowd.  After his surgery Damoscene will go back to school, and Vianney will keep track of him making sure he stays in school.

We also had the privilege to meet Jean Paul, who was previously operated on by Dr. Snyder 2.5 years ago in March 2010. . He was a breath of fresh air; despite his condition he was warm, sweet, and happy. Jean spent the whole day with the team taking pictures, enjoyed lunch with us, and got to keep one of Dr. Snyder’s favorite surgical hats.

These are just some of the children the MMFC was able to help while in Gitwe in September. In total, the team performed 25 life-changing lip and palate surgeries. Since MMFC began traveling to Rwanda 6 years ago, MMFC has operated on hundreds of children and has provided medical and dental care to thousands.

MMFC’s missions to Rwanda are funded in part by the Greg Feldman, MD, Memorial Surgical Missions to Rwanda Fund. To find out more about Greg’s Fund, please visit our website at