Peter Strachan Represents Cleft Advocacy’s Bright Future

9 August 2018 | Smile Train

Peter Strachan, the son of Jacqueline and Richard Strachan, was born in London with a cleft lip and palate. The Strachan family entrusted Peter’s cleft treatment to Evelina London’s South Thames Cleft Team, who helped ease their fears via sound medical advice and experience.

Peter as a child after cleft surgery

When Peter was two years old, the Strachan’s moved to Bermuda, where finding information about cleft treatment was much more difficult. Jacqueline remembers, “We were unable to find any information about cleft lip and palate or anything to do with facial differences and support surrounding that. It was really frightening, and we felt very alone.” Fortunately, Jacqueline and Richard were eventually referred to the cleft team at Boston Children’s Hospital by a family on the island whose son had received excellent cleft care there.

Over the next several years, Boston Children’s Hospital provided Peter with a variety of needed surgeries and other cleft treatments, including tubes for his ears, extensive jaw and nose surgeries, and speech pathology. To keep Peter positive through the 10+ procedures, Jacqueline and Richard created themes for each of his hospital stays, which included filling his room with decorations and themed gifts from friends.

Peter has clowns sing to him

As the family prepared for an upcoming bone graft surgery, Jacqueline had trouble finding information on post-recovery diets. “What few recipes we found seemed very unhealthy. I’d heard that many of the children hated the post-op food and lost a lot of weight after surgery,” Jacqueline recalls. She decided to create her own nutrient-dense, blended-food recipes from scratch to keep Peter healthy. The standard was that they had to be nutritious, easily eaten, and most importantly pass Peter’s taste test. The experimental recipes worked, and Peter never lost a pound.

On a holiday break from school, Peter decided that he wanted to create a cookbook to share his mother’s post-operative recipes with other families who were affected by clefts. Peter, Jacqueline, and friend Sharron Hawker remade Peter’s favourite recovery recipes, with Peter tasting each one to ensure that it was as good as he remembered. When the cookbook was finished, Dr John Meara, Plastic Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, was so impressed that the recipes now serve as the inspiration for a new after-care cooking package.

Peter cooking dishes

After receiving amazing feedback about the cookbook, Peter took on the task of creating Facial Awareness Connection for Everyone (FACE) Bermuda — an association with the goal of providing information for people who are affected by facial differences on the island. Peter wrote to 70+ island medical practitioners to help shape the FACE Bermuda website and Facebook page. Richard commented, “The feedback on the site has been amazing, and a few children have shared their own struggles with us via the Facebook page.”

Peter then created a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than £7,000, a portion of which was sent to Smile Train. Peter had decided to include Smile Train in his fundraising efforts because a nurse he had interviewed for his website was a big supporter and introduced him to Smile Train’s global work. Peter really connected to the idea that children worldwide deserve equally incredible comprehensive cleft care. Peter said of his accomplishment, “I feel great pride in that, with my fundraising, I have changed people’s lives forever. Changing the quality of their lives is a great thing to do.”

Peter with his family

Notably, Peter isn’t done with his advocacy work. His next challenge is highlighting bullying in schools. Peter has said that nearly half of young people are bullied about their appearance at school. He hopes to start a Facial Awareness Day in Bermuda — at first in all Bermuda schools — and expand it into a nationally recognised awareness day.

Smile Train is so proud of Peter’s efforts to provide needed information and resources to families affected by cleft, and we are incredibly thankful for your valuable support. If you would like to join Peter and the rest of the Strachan family in helping us provide more children around the world with new smiles and second chances at life, please make a gift today.