Ashiket Argunde Ashiket sits on a bed in a corner of a busy ward flanked by his Mum and Dad. He has just had his cleft palate repaired. He is pale, quiet and slight for his age.

When he was seen in pre-op clinic he weighed just 28kg and his blood tests showed him to be markedly anaemic. His Dad explains that he was born with a cleft palate which has made eating and drinking difficult. He has never thrived and was teased at school because of his stature and his nasal speech.

Increasingly affected by this, and troubled by low self esteem, he failed his exams and left school. Local doctors had refused to operate on Ashiket’s palate because he had also been born with a congenital heart condition – despite the fact that this had been treated and everything was stable from this point of view.

Talking about the NCF’s visit, Mr Argunde says “This was our last chance. I hope now that Ashiket will gain more self confidence, will get back to his studies and become independent in life. Nobody else could have done this for him. I am so happy.”

Ashiket grins and promises to return to school. He has received advice about his diet which will hopefully correct his anaemia – his family doctor will follow this up.

A couple of days later Ashiket and his Dad appear with a box of Indian sweets to share amongst the team… a lovely gesture, much appreciated by everyone.

Ashiket presenting sweets to Dr George Teturswamy