A single mum and her son’s cleft journey – Remember Charly?

Charly is so much more then a little boy with a cleft lip and palate from the Philippines. He is a fighter, a survivor, an inspiration, my daughters dear friend in the Philippines. When I think of Charly and his mum, I feel this incredible love and I know we have to go on. 

Over a year ago, I started travelling with my daughter around the world doing charity. There were times when I questioned our path. In fact I check in almost daily, have a little chat with my inner self and see if we are still on course. Last march 2015, there was a moment where I felt completely alone, no support only more challenges. It was Charly’s mama Norlita who put me back into my place. She asked me, not to give up. We were on a mission and her son Charly was not operated yet. Norlita is a single mum of 4 small kids, her husband got shot when her youngest child was only 4 weeks old. Three of her children had to witness, how her daddy got killed.


Charlie’s story

I told Charlie’s story here:  Charlie’s long way

And also how we met:  How we met Charly and had Gun-men following us

And Mama Norlita told her story: Mama Norlita tells how she had given up hope.

Even the philippine rapper told the story: German mom, kid give hope to Bohol cleft palate patients


Operated by NCFPI

Together with the wonderful Executive Director of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation Philippines NCFPI, Ms. Mel Maran, we kept our promise. Charly got operated in May 2015. Getting the funds for his operation was the easiest part. The harder part were the secondary costs. Ms Mel is working hard to make sure that all patients receive a complete cleft treatment, including speech therapy and treatment for teeth next to food and accommodation, just to name a few.


 Charlie’s struggle

But Charlies case was more complicated. His lungs were infected, that is common with cleft palate, but makes an operation too dangerous. We had to wait another three weeks until we could get another x-ray. Norlita struggled, she had left her three other kids with her parents and a half sack of rice. She had to be back in three weeks to pay back the loan she got to pay for the rice and she had to get another loan for the next half sack of rice. But now she was 1.000km away from home, away from her rice field where she made her money. She wanted to be strong for Charly but was worried so much. I organised that someone would bring her family rice and pay for the loan. I had to make sure, that we wouldn’t endanger her family. Only after I had visited them myself, I learned that we had gunmen following us. White people and a car, not such a good combination in this area. We managed to send a cousin of her with the bus so the gangs wouldn’t be suspicious. Three weeks later, we all were so excited to see the xray results – and we broke down – he was still not ready for operation. He had to wait another four weeks. Would Norlita stay and wait with him? Would NCFPI pay for an extra 4 weeks of board and lodge? Would we get another sack of rice for her family? Norlita knew, if she went home, she wouldn’t find the strength to come back again. So she stayed and together with Ms. Mel we made it happen.

One year later

Charly is 6 years old now,his cleft lip is healed well. Now he would be ready for the next operation. NCFPI is ready for him. His mum is worried about the rice when she has to leave her others kids behind. His grandparents are worried about the operation, he looks pretty now, why don’t we just leave it the way it is? Because Charly still gets pneumonia a lot, because Charly still can’t speak in a normal way, because there is still rice coming out of his nose when he is eating, because I care too much about him, because I promised him and his mum not to give up. Now it’s my turn again to empower mama Norlita. I promised.


Next steps

I prepare for my next mission to the Philippines. I will need some support for Charlie’s family and for their secondary costs: food and accommodation in Manila, transportation, etc… NCFPI is taking care of all of the operation costs. They do not charge the families at all. If you wish you can support NCFPI, I totally trust Ms Mel, I have seen how she works and I had a chance to observe the organization over a course of a few month. If you wish to donate to NCFPI please do this here: Donate to NCFPI

Next to Charly, I will get Nina and Lemmcer Zeus as well for their follow up operation. I promised not to let them down. And together with Ms. Mel we work on a program to support and to empower the parents of cleft children. In this moment I am getting a few workshops together.

If you wish to donate to Rucksack Coach, you can do this here: Donate to Rucksack Coach



Niña Grace


Leemcer Zeus




Some of my favourite memories of Charly:

Garatitude to the amazing Ann-Kathrin Lange, who accompanied part of our project with the camera. Copyright on the professional pictures are with her.

I am love and you are love.
I am light and you are light.
I am save and you are save.

Love, peace, hope and kindness for all living beings.


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