Autumn 2017 Newsletter

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In our Autumn newsletter you can  catch up on the children’s progress and read our new Values, Vision and Mission statement.

Download/view our Autumn 2017 Newsletter

“As Patron of  both Children First Foundation and Monash Children’s Hospital I am delighted to support Children First’s Winter Appeal.  Please join me in assisting more disadvantaged children from overseas to receive life changing surgery. Our goal is to raise $100,000 before 30 June.”  Lady Marigold Southey AC, Patron

By making a tax deductible donation to Children First’s Winter Appeal you can change the lives of more children like Choity.

Dear Friends,

The wonderful news is that after reconstructive surgery that changed her life, three-year-old Choity and her mother Shima have returned home to Bangladesh.

Choity was born with significant deformities which were beyond the resources of surgical teams in Bangladesh. She had a third leg which surgeons removed when she was eight days old; at the same time they attempted to fit her with a colostomy to address her complex anatomy.  They knew it wasn’t a permanent solution, but it did buy her some time.  As if life wasn’t hard enough for this little one, she’s also vision impaired.

Choity’s parents, Shima and Asad were factory workers living in a very poor community 40km from Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka.  Their first daughter died at birth, and they were devastated when faced with the extent of the challenges confronting their second child.

When our friends at Bangladeshi charity AACHOL Trust referred Choity to Children First we immediately sought the opinion of renowned paediatric surgeon Associate Professor Chris Kimber at Monash Children’s Hospital.

Choity and Shima arrived in mid-winter Melbourne last year.  You can imagine the culture shock for a young mother from Bangladesh, not able to speak English, her child desperately in need of help and with no family around her.  Shima soon felt comfortable thanks to the warm welcome of our staff and volunteers who went about delivering the holistic care we speak of with great pride.

Following the initial examinations it became clear that Choity’s condition was far worse than first thought.  Professor Kimber began consulting with local and international colleagues and conducted exploratory surgery. The result of these investigations and advice was positive and presented two ways forward.

Chris considered what medical support would be available for Choity when she returned to Bangladesh.  The surgical outcome must also fit the lifestyle of this little girl as she grew up, and provide the ability for her to become a mother.  His decision around the best procedure was based on what was best for Choity now and as she grew up.

The surgery, which took place in November last year, revealed that Choity had begun life as a twin, hence the existence of her third leg.  Chris and his team removed the remnants of this leg, retaining muscles that were then incorporated into the reconstruction of Choity’s body.  The result was an outstanding success and ten months after arriving on that winter’s night she was able to return home.

Children First has worked in this global health space since 1999, committed to enabling medical solutions to the challenges facing children like Choity. Thankfully we don’t do this alone – we are supported by the very best surgeons, health professionals and hospitals, wonderful volunteers and incredibly generous individuals and organisations who give financial and in-kind support.

As I write to you we await the arrival of five children – from Vietnam, Timor Leste and Palestine – with another seven being reviewed.  Just weeks ago, we were thrilled when one of our surgeons told us he could help five-year-old Janelio. Walking, running and playing is already difficult for this little fellow due to his limb deformities;  without corrective surgery his mobility will decline.

We really appreciate the support we receive and hope that you can assist these children.  By making a tax-deductible gift, you will enable more children to receive surgery they can’t access in their country, bringing them hope for a happy future.

I would like to thank you for considering a donation to Children First and invite you to email me at or call me on 0418 565 531 if you would like further information.

It’s always a joyful occasion for us when a child returns home – we know that through our collaboration with partner surgeons and hospitals we’ve made a significant difference to that child’s life.  On behalf of the children and their families – a heart-felt THANK YOU!
Elizabeth Lodge, Chief Executive Officer

“The outcome for Choity has been excellent, way beyond all our initial expectations.  She now walks and runs well and has the opportunity of a fulfilling life.  Providing this care is so difficult and complex.  It was only possible through the enormous support of Children First Foundation and the entire team at the Retreat.  Children Like Choity deserve the best advice and care.”  Associate Professor Chris Kimber, Head of Surgery Monash Children’s

Photos: Teagan Glenane Photography, Monash Children’s Hospital, Children First Foundation, Atom Rahman.

It was a chance discovery on google that brought volunteer Susan Whitehead to Children First.

Susan had recently retired and she was looking for something to fill her days. Her brother and niece live in Kilmore so she regularly made the journey to visit them from Mickleham, where she lives with her husband.   Kilmore is just a half hour from home so she thought volunteering in the area would be perfect.

So while searching for some ideas, Children First popped up on google and she decided to apply.  That was last November and Susan has been one of our regular Wednesday volunteers ever since.  This still leaves time for her to spend time with her grandsons who live near her.

“I just love it.” Susan says. “I’m a hands-on person and I love helping people – it must be the country girl in me!

“When I first started there were four PNG children at the Retreat.  I’d done Kokoda, so I showed them my book and they enjoyed looking and showing me where they lived.”

These shared experiences with the children happen every day and it’s what makes volunteering at the Retreat so rewarding – the children as well as our volunteers.

“I just love being part of their day,” said Susan.

Volunteers are an invaluable part of our holistic care team at the Miracle sMiles Retreat:  they make a genuine contribution to the well-being of the children and the day to day running of the Retreat.  Each volunteer brings a different skill or interest to the role which adds to the diversity at the Retreat.

Volunteers are rostered at times that fit their family or work life: some commit to a day or half day a week, others are on the ‘overnight sleep’ roster to support the overnight staff,  and there are those who do part or whole weekends, again supporting our staff.

If you’d like to know more about volunteering call Anne, our volunteer coordinator on 9329 4822 or email


Media reported how collaboration between Monash Children’s Hospital, Children First Foundation and AACHOL Trust in Bangladesh has changed Choity’s life

Melbourne Channel 10, 9, 7 and ABC TV news reports are on Children First Facebook page

International coverage at BBC Asia

Herald Sun Transcript
A Bangladeshi girl born with three legs and conditions never seen before is set to return home after treatment that still amazes her Melbourne surgeons and carers.

After sailing through her final check-up yesterday, the recovery of three-year-old Choity continues to stun Associate Professor Chris Kimber, who reqbuilt her body at Monash Children’s Hospital last November.

Born with a third leg, two sets of internal organs and missing other vital sections of her body, Choity was brought to Australia by Children First Foundation after an international effort for a unique operation.  “It’s remarkable, just remarkable.  I cannot believe how well she was recovered,” Assoc Prof Kimber said. “She will need some work later in life as a teenager. But this just shows how well we planned and prepared because this has turned out better than we ever could have dreamt.”

Choity is now able to run around and play like every other child, however her newfound mobility is just the tip of the iceberg.  Born without the body’s normal openings, Choity had only skin like a Barbie doll on the outside, and no was of going to the toilet or avoiding fatal infections when she was found in a Dhaka slum by a health charity run by Atom Rahman, who helped save conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna.

The surgery here revealed she was actually a twin who had taken over the lower body of a sister so it became a living part of her, with two sets of organs in her lower abdomen.  But is a remarkable and unique operation, Assoc Prof Kimber’s team were able to build and then reconstruct her internal organs so successfully that she can not only function like any other child, but will be able to one day become a mother.

With her recovery exceeding all expectations, foundation spokesman Pat Weldon said she was now ready to return home to a full life including school.  “It is amazing to see her because she looks just like a little toddler,” he said.

“Now she is running around the way any other toddler would.  She is probably the happiest kid you could ever meet in your life.”