We are a charity focused on providing permanent, sustainable, ways to improve cleft care in both the UK and overseas.
Registered with the Charity Commission in 2007, CLEFT has been set up by the North Thames Cleft Lip and Palate Centre based at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children London, and the St Andrew’s Centre, Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford Essex.
Meet our team
The day-to-day running of the charity is overseen by a board of trustees. Applications for project funding are considered by a Research Steering Group who, with their specialist medical knowledge, make recommendations to the trustees for their final decision on grants.
- Mr Andrew SteelMr Andrew Steel
In CLEFT I saw a unique opportunity to support people looking for ways to improve not only the lives of cleft patients and their families in the UK, but also to create significant and sustainable improvements for those in poorer countries where little or no care is available, and outcomes are often dramatically different.
My third eldest daughter Alanna was born with a cleft palate, and has been cared for by the GOSH and Salisbury Cleft teams since she was born in 2003. As the parent of a child with a cleft, I was also keen to help support research into the causes of clefts, about which little is understood and which holds little / no attraction for research funding from pharmaceutical companies.
I was inspired by Brian to become a trustee of the charity shortly after its foundation in 2007, becoming a CLEFT trustee from 2008 to 2011, before moving to Singapore for work, and then re-joined the trustees on my return to the UK in 2017.
I am passionate about creating sustainable solutions for problems, rather than applying ‘quick fixes’ that look good but don’t last. I see CLEFT as unique in sustainably improving cleft care in poor countries by providing training and equipment for medical staff that wouldn’t otherwise be available, and by supporting overall research to investigate the underlying causes.
Married with 4 daughters, Andrew lives in Hampshire and works in London and worldwide. Andrew is Global Head of Sustainable Finance, and Head of the EMEA Corporate Ratings Group for the credit ratings agency Fitch. He has a background in investment banking, corporate fundraising for projects, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, corporate risk and advisory work. Andrew graduated from Bristol University with a degree in Psychology and has a post-graduate diploma (CGEM) from INSEAD.
- Mr Norman HayMr Norman Hay
- Mrs Janette HollingberyMrs Janette Hollingbery
- Mr Paul MorrisPlastic SurgeonMr Paul MorrisPlastic Surgeon
I am a paediatric plastic surgeon with a specialist interest in cleft lip and palate surgery at Great Ormond Street (GOSH) for the last 8 years. Just as with my wife Tracy, both work and home life are full of all things cleft!
Through sharing my expertise I've been fortunate enough to train cleft surgeons at GOSH, who are now consultant cleft surgeons in the U.K. and around the world (Belgium, Canada and Chile). Most recently sharing my expertise in the management of cleft children with clinical teams from developing countries, including Bangladesh, has enabled CLEFT to support their local care of cleft children and families.
In addition to surgical training, I am a keen cyclist and coordinate a team for CLEFT to participate in the annual Prudential 100 mile cycle ride in London It is a wonderful family weekend event that has raised significant amount of money and awareness for CLEFT.
My aim for this coming year is to increase the number of cleft families that engage with CLEFT so that we can raise awareness, share the good work we do and of course get more families involved in fund raising activities.
- Dr Tracy MorrisDr Tracy Morris
Being married to cleft lip and palate surgeon and trustee Mr Paul Morris means that daily life is engulfed by everything cleft! Here in the UK we are so very lucky to have such a wonderful NHS that supports families from the first scan through to adult life. The sad fact that parents from less developed countries have very little or no support medically and that their wider family and villagers often ostracise cleft children is heart breaking.
My passion for the cleft charity has grown as I have become more aware of the amazing work it undertakes worldwide and the positive impact it has on so many lives. The charity touches the lives of less fortunate families through local surgery, training and education; and here in the UK through our funded grassroots research programmes. Reading the stories on our website highlights its effectiveness.
I regularly attend the trustee meetings, work closely with our Student Ambassadors and promote the charity at every opportunity, I have run (and walked) the London Parks half marathon 3 times, I have cycled the London Prudential 100 miles cycle ride 3 times and next year I aim to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of CLEFT.
- Mr Rory WalkerMr Rory Walker
I'm a father of four young kids and a husband to Becky and I live in Surrey along with our hoard of dogs, cats, chickens and gerbils!
In my working life I run a Safari Tour Operator, specialising in organising trips of a lifetime to 'Safari Africa'.
I first became involved with CLEFT after our eldest son, Jack, was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Brian Sommerlad was Jack's surgeon and he introduced us to CLEFT and the amazing work the charity does.
Despite being the world's most common birth defects, clefts are still an area that are not fully understood and require a lot more charitable funding. Having gone through our experiences with Jack, and being lucky enough to live in country where he was easily treated, we feel compelled to try and help people in less fortunate positions around the world.
Unlike many other larger cleft charities, CLEFT focuses on both research into improving our understanding of clefts as well as helping people in under-privileged countries. CLEFT also focuses on establishing sustainable cleft practices overseas and unlike the larger charities keeps administration costs very low.
As a trustee I share the responsibility with the other trustees to ensure the charity is run in a effective and efficient way. As a business owner I am involved in the many aspects of running a business, many of which relate to running a charity. As a father of a son with a cleft I also add a personal element as well.
- Mrs Rosie O'MalleyMrs Rosie O'Malley
I’m Rosie O’Malley, busy working mum of 3 (plus dog).
Life keeps me busy, yoga keeps me sane. Running is my head space and netball lets out my inner competitive spirit. I love to travel and to learn about how people live in different parts of the world (that’s my inner geographer).
A good book or the National Geographic would be my nightly wind down (I’m in that small % of the population who have never watched a box set of anything, or a Netflix series). I enjoy cooking and exploring new foods when time allows!
I have been a CLEFT trustee for around 5 years. My working background is 21 years in Marketing and Strategy roles in Unilever - covering local, European and global business on a multitude of household name brands.
I loved what I did at Unilever but life needed some changes and I left in Feb 2018 to help my father managing commercial property investments.
This allows me to be more flexible and give me more time and space for looking after the family, particularly my middle child who has 22q11 deletion syndrome - as part of that, she had an occult submucous cleft palate - she has had 2 surgeries on her cleft, Brian Sommerlad was the surgeon for the second.
My husband and I met Brian at a 22q11 conference and that was where I learnt about CLEFT the charity and Brian’s own work and research.
I hate the idea of people being ostracised because of having clefts, therefore I feel the work we are doing in Bangladesh etc is so important. I also feel that finding ways to bring scientific research to people whose lives it could actually help, is essential.
This sums up CLEFT as opposed to other cleft related charities - it’s the balance of helping those in poorer countries than our own and the funding of essential research to better the care over the longer term - which I think is just a perfect blend.
Early on in my involvement with CLEFT, I led some thinking on our strategy (which has moved on a bit since) - and I generally try to offer thoughts on marketing and how we can keep expanding our reach.
- Mr Richard AllanMr Richard Allan
- Mr Mark DwyerMr Mark Dwyer
My son Edward was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, and has been cared for by the GOSH team since he was born in 2008. I was invited to become a trustee of the charity in 2009 after attending a presentation at Great Ormond Street and saw an opportunity to give something back and to help create sustainable improvements for those in developing countries where little or no care is available, and ongoing care is rarely available. A very important part of the CLEFT mission is to encourage lasting improvements in developing countries by providing training and equipment for local medical staff to provide care to cleft patients from childhood to adulthood rather than by flying in Western surgeons to provide primary care without focussing on follow-up care.
As the parent of a child with a cleft, I was also keen to help support research into improvements in care and into the causes of clefts, which does not receive funding from pharmaceutical companies.
Married with 2 children, Mark lives and works in London. Mark is a partner in global law firm DLA Piper and is the Head of their London Finance & Markets practice. Mark has degrees in law from the University of Dublin (Trinity College) and Oxford University (Lady Margaret Hall).
- Dr Gwyneth SommerladDr Gwyneth Sommerlad
The charity has been part of my life since it began more than 10 years ago but I did not become a trustee until a few years later when persuaded by the previous chairwoman. It has been an important part of the life of our whole family and their friends. All have been involved in some way – running, cycling, helping with the website and being part of the concerts and other events. My two visits (self-funded as are all trustees’ trips) to Bangladesh have helped me to understand how important is the project there and shown me how much the staff and patients in Dhaka Medical College Hospital appreciate the work of CLEFT.
- Kaye KnowlesKaye Knowles
My name is Kaye Knowles and I live in West London with my husband, Peter. We have two sons, David & Andrew.
My career has included many years as a professional violinist (BBC Philharmonic, Bridge String Quartet) and as a violin then classroom teacher. I'm currently Head of Music at Gumley House School FCJ and also teach Dalcroze Eurhythmics at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
I was born with a cleft lip and palate and first encountered CLEFT runners in 2014 at the Royal Parks Half Marathon. That year I ran for Great Ormond Street Hospital charity, which is where I received my treatment. This included over a dozen operations. In the following year, 2015, I decided to raise money for CLEFT. I then volunteered to run the Uganda Marathon in 2016 and raised over £2,000 for the charity.
I am keenly aware of how privileged I am to have had my cleft repaired by the very best surgeons and how this has allowed me to lead a normal life! My experience in Uganda was a sharp reminder of what can happen when superstition and lack of education are the norm. I have been moved at how cleft charities have literally given people the opportunity to have a life.
I became a trustee in 2017 and particularly applaud the low administrative costs of CLEFT and how the majority of fundraising goes directly to research and on projects in the developing world. It was a fantastic experience to visit the hospital in Uganda and to know exactly on what my fundraising was being spent.
As a new trustee I hope to contribute ideas for further fundraising and to continue to be actively involved in fundraising.
- Dr Emily AndersonClinical GeneticistDr Emily AndersonClinical Geneticist
I first heard about the charity CLEFT through Mr Brian Sommerlad, who operated on my cleft lip and palate when I was a baby. I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for CLEFT in 2009 and I subsequently became a trustee. I have been involved in encouraging other young people to support the charity and I have also visited Bangladesh to see the challenges in providing comprehensive cleft care there. Having qualified as a doctor in 2012, I have now chosen to specialise in genetics. My own experiences, as a patient and as a doctor, mean I am particularly keen to support CLEFT’s work, both in research as well as overseas.
- Mr Brian SommerladConsultant Plastic Surgeon and ChairMr Brian SommerladConsultant Plastic Surgeon and Chair
For over 40 years, I have been involved in operating on babies, children and adults who have been born with cleft lip and/or palate.
Although I have now retired from the National Health Service, I continue to operate both in the UK and in many countries abroad.
As a plastic surgeon, I have been involved in many aspects of surgical reconstruction. However, I have increasingly focused on the challenge of trying to improve results in surgery for clefts.
I have been aware of the lack of good quality data on techniques and outcomes and have tried to make some contributions in these areas. Travelling to many countries has convinced me of the need to try to help in improving care for children born with clefts in resource-poor countries. Most efforts by charities rely on flying in western teams for short visits or paying local surgeons to carry out the operations in private hospitals. Neither of these approaches builds for the future. If these non-governmental organisations disappeared, they would have had a negative impact in the long-term.
In 2007, with Maddie Holmes (grandmother of a patient) and inspired by John Kettleborough (an ex-patient) we set up the charity CLEFT, with the aim of funding research to be carried out by the North Thames Cleft Team in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the St Andrew’s Centre, Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, and also to support cleft lip and palate teams in resource-poor countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Egypt. We have achieved a lot but there is much more to be done – helping to bridge the gaps in knowledge about the causes and treatment of clefts and trying to bridge the gaps between treatment in countries like the UK and countries like Bangladesh.
In addition to being the current chairman of CLEFT, I am currently trying to split my time between looking after my own patients, regularly visiting the centres that we support overseas, and also keeping in touch with my own family of five children and currently ten grandchildren. It would be better if there were more hours in the day and more days in the year!
- Jason BaldwinJason Baldwin
My son, Noah, was born with a submucous cleft palate. When confronted with this diagnosis our first thoughts were 'why us?' followed swiftly by 'how do we fix this?'
Answers to these fundamental questions continued to resonate with me even after the two successful surgical procedures on his cleft to repair it. He has since spent hours in speech therapy and recently with the orthodontic department. In the UK we are fortunate to have an amazing group of dedicated surgeons and support teams to carry out world-leading procedures to correct these conditions.
I Joined CLEFT in 2018 as a trustee and Treasurer with a passion to better understand why clefts occur through research and to help other children in the UK and abroad.
Overseas Steering group
Our overseas activities are monitored by our Overseas Steering Group who also make recommendations in relation to our overseas expenditure.