In Guatemala and other poor countries, it is common to collaborate with foreign teams that travel to these countries to provide assistance. This is very valuable, as there is often a lack of good care. Tess Unlimited has been active in Guatemala for 16 years. Our aim is to work closely with local professionals and build a fully local team, so that in the future we will be less dependent on foreign teams.

We have trained our own speech therapists, two of whom have even become trainers. They provide training to new speech therapists in Guatemala and surrounding countries such as El Salvador. We currently have four local surgeons in training; this process will take several years, but we aim for thorough education. Additionally, we have local nurses, anesthesiologists, a dietitian, pediatricians, dentists, a psychologist, and orthodontists. We have a close collaboration with the American organization Smile Train. They organize numerous courses, workshops, and conferences on cleft lip and palate each year, to which many of our team members are invited. This way, we all stay updated on the latest developments in the field of cleft care.

Our foundation does not pay the four surgeons in training, as they have indicated that they want to work voluntarily during their training and the first few years. This also applies to three of the five dentists. The other team members receive a local salary, as we understand that not everyone can work voluntarily. In this way, we create employment opportunities for the local population and prefer to hire employees who have a cleft lip and palate or who have children with a cleft lip and palate.

Four of our speech therapists are parents of children with cleft lip and palate. Lidia, head of our patient residence and promotion, was born with cleft lip and palate herself. She became our patient 12 years ago and has been working for the foundation for more than 10 years.