This May Cleft Friends is celebrating 10 Years! Whoop! Whoop! If you or your loved one is cleft affected feel free to email your photo and story to us at We want to share encouraging stories and create awareness about cleft lip and palate in South Africa. You are not alone!

Photo Credit: Gerdie de Lange

Milanje is the Cleft Friends cover baby! She was born with a unilateral cleft lip & palate. Her photo has traveled the country as an inspiration of hope for all new families affected by cleft lip and palate. The way her mom, Biance, is embracing her and kissing her wide open cleft speaks about her acceptance and unconditional love for her baby no matter what.

Biance, Milanje and Francois (before op)

“Wow, it was so hard seeing our tiny princess disappear behind swinging doors of the theater with her father. Right then and there my heart broke into a million pieces. Nothing could have prepared us for how amazingly different she actually looked after the operation. Our bonding had to start from scratch. It took me a good two weeks to get used to her new face.” Biance de Villiers, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Milanje (4)

We have watched Milanje grow and have walked the cleft journey alongside her family since the day she was born. Milanje has had two cleft surgeries and is now 8 years old. Biance is one of our trained support moms and is hands on with new families, affected by cleft lip and palate, as they start their cleft journey in the Eastern Cape. It was an absolute joy looking back and finding photos of this sweet family since 2011. To see how Milanje is excelling at life and to hear how well she is doing at horse riding is a pure delight. Read more from a post on her school’s Facebook page. She is our very own Cleft Friends cowgirl – YEEEEHAAAA!

Photo Credit: Erika

In mid February 2018 Milanje had her first horse riding lesson at Altona Equestrian Centre, under the amazing hand of Alma Hough. She has always had a love for horses, so this was a dream come true for her. She loved every second. It wasn’t just fun and games, as she had to do exercises to become riding fit and to manage her balance in the saddle. She was very dedicated and did her exercises morning and evening. She has a very close bond with her pony, Peter Pan, who also had to learn all the Western Games with her. He was not the easiest pony, as he was abused badly. He was rescued and given to the centre where she is riding. She loves him very much and he has come a long way too.

This year we registered her with Sanesa (South African National Equestrian Schools Association) where she represents Curro Westbrook during events. She is also registered with the Port Elizabeth Western Mounted Games Club (PEWMG).

In January 2019, she took part in her first Qualifier for Western Mounted Games. She did not place in any of the events during this qualifier. She did however get the award for “Riding the most difficult pony”. Peter Pan did not have a good day. She was very disappointed, but was determined to work harder and try again in Qualifier 2.

On 3 Feb she took part in Qualifier 2. In this event she got a 4th place in Keyhole and also placed 8th overall in her division on Level 0 primary school Sanesa riders. She also won the award for the “Most improved rider.” She is the youngest in her level with the least experience.

On 17 March, she competed in Qualifier 3. During this event she placed 9th overall for Sanesa riders and 7th overall for club riders. She also placed 3rd in the Figure 8 flags game for club riders and 3rd place for Poles II for club riders. She also won the “Most Improved rider”.

On 7 April, she competed in Qualifier 4. She placed 8th overall for Sanesa riders, 4th place in Keyhole for Sanesa riders, and 2nd Place for Keyhole club riders. She got the “Tiny Tot of the day” trophy for being the rider who had a good day in the arena, displayed excellent sportsmanship towards her fellow riders, rested her pony well between games, made sure he had food and water. They call this the Golden Combo.

Milanje will compete in Qualifier 5 on 5 May 2019. She is determined to obtain a 1st position in her game before the qualifiers at the end of July.

Post copied from with permission from Biance de Villiers, Milanje’s mom <3 Thank Biance 🙂

#cleftfriends #smilefoundationsa #closingthegap #youarenotalone #cleftlip #cleftpalate #cleftstrong #cleftmomsSA #cleftcourage



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