Many families make their first contact with the Foundation for Faces of Children via email. When they happen to be Spanish-speaking, Maria Carmen Thompson gets involved. The Mexico native spoke no English when she arrived in the U.S. in 1989. Since becoming fluent, she has used her bilingualism in corporate and educational settings. But Thompson regards her volunteer role as Spanish translator for the Foundation as special.
“The ability to speak another language is a gift,” says Thompson, who became acquainted with the Foundation during her six years as a Massachusetts resident. “I think I have good people skills, and I think I’ve been guided to support people in need.”
The first email inquiry forwarded to Thompson by Foundation staff allowed her to do just that. “It was from a woman whose child was born with a craniofacial condition, but she didn’t even have a name for the child’s problem,” recalls Thompson, who now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. “She didn’t know where to turn.”
Thompson wrote the woman a reassuring message and arranged to have the Foundation’s videotape, which is available in both English and Spanish, mailed to her immediately. “The video is absolutely wonderful—professionally done and very well translated,” she says. The videotape, “Understanding Cleft Lip & Palate: A Guide for New Parents” (Como Entender la Condicion de Labio y Paladar Hendido: Una Guia para los Padres), provides an introduction to craniofacial conditions, emphasizes the importance of locating a clinical team and features parents who describe happy outcomes for their children.
Although Thompson knows she is having an impact on the lives of children and their families, she is struck by the difficult situations many of them face. “There is a lot of poverty in many of these countries,” she says, noting the prevalence of craniofacial conditions in Central America and South America. “Some people travel to various doctors only to find that no one can perform the surgery the child needs.” Although some families search in vain for the appropriate treatment, there are qualified craniofacial teams throughout the world, and many receive the referral they need.
Understanding the need for treatment and then finding it begins with information and guidance—something Thompson eagerly provides on behalf of the Foundation for Faces of Children. “I am so pleased to be associated with the Foundation and the tremendous work they do—to represent them by my translation work,” she says. “My heart is with these families. I need to help them.”