Marta Chase loved taking care of the babies with cleft lips and cleft palates during her time onboard the Africa Mercy as an ICU ward nurse in Madagascar.

However, her experience became very personal when she learned that her sister’s second child (Elsie) would be born with a cleft lip. In the process of helping her sister, Marta was struck by the differences in medical care for Elsie in the U.S. and for baby Francina, whom she helped care for in Madagascar: “Little Elsie will have surgery at about six weeks of age.

Francina was over a year old by the time she got to have surgery. Elsie’s surgery is covered by insurance. The only way Francina could have surgery is if she received it for free. Elsie is having surgery at a hospital about a 15-minute drive from her home. Many cleft lip babies like Francina travel for over a day. Elsie’s mom knew about the cleft lip at her 20-week ultrasound.

Francina’s mom didn’t know about her baby’s cleft lip and palate until she was born. I’m grateful for the ease of having surgery in the States, but . . .

. . . more than that, I’m grateful that, because of the work of Mercy Ships, little ones like Francina get a chance to have a surgery that will change their lives forever.”