Belgian Association for Congenital Facial Defects, VAGA

Under the Patronage of Her Majesty The Queen

Every year in Belgium, some 200 children are born with a “different” face.  These defects are not necessarily hereditary. They can happen to any of us.  The impact of these defects on parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and all of the people in the immediate surroundings of the affected child should not be underestimated.

A face is a person’s calling card.  Being born with an “unusual” face means there that there may also be problems with eating, speaking, hearing and orthodontics.  Over the years, the medical care available to these children has improved spectacularly.  But for many parents with a child with a facial disfigurement it is not only an emotional shock - they are also confronted with a medical maze.  Instead of being just mother and father, parents find themselves on a confusing and intimidating medical rollercoaster where they meet many impressive doctors who are most kind, but whose words sounds tarrying and threatening.

That is why, in 1992, the Belgian Association for Congenital Facial Defects (Vereniging voor Aangeboren Gelaatsafwijkingen, VAGA vzw) was founded.  VAGA operates with 26 experienced volunteers throughout the country who do everything they can to give afflicted children and their parents hope for the future.  Our volunteers are on stand-by, day and night, to lend support at births, operations or just for a chat. 
VAGA also organises information days with the treating doctors.  VAGA’s “Open House” days are widely attended.  The threshold is low and parents, often accompanied by grandparents, are there in number to ask questions in a relaxed atmosphere.  Particularly striking are the many visits by expectant parents who have learned as a result of an ultrasound scan that their child will have some facial defect.  Receiving them in a realistic, yet hopeful way is a challenge the VAGA volunteers have to face time again.  The birth announcements and enthusiastic messages we receive afterwards are treasured by all volunteers.

VAGA has come a long way since 1992.  Most importantly, its presence has ensured that the problems surrounding facial defects are dealt with in a positive, constructive and supportive manner.  Moral support is essential for the afflicted families.  Our goal is to provide a forum where afflicted families can have a good talk about their feelings, their fears and financial and other practical problems with other parents and self-afflicted individuals who have faced the same issues.

In short, it may be said that VAGA’s aim is to offer children with “different” faces and their families new hope for the future.  Our “list of honours” is testament that the group’s hard work and commitment is paying off.  We will never, ever, give up. 

VAGA’s List of Honours:

  • Under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium. 
  • “Princess Mathilde Prize” Laureate, 2002
  • “Volunteer of the Year,” Province of Antwerp, 2003
  • King Baudouin Foundation “ Hors-Pistes/Buiten Categorie/Exceptional Category” Laureate, 2004
  • President of the European Network of Cleft and Craniofacial Support Groups, 2005
  • Accredited by the Flemish Ministry of Welfare and Equal Opportunities
  • Awarded the Knights’s Cross in the Order of Leopold II,1997
  • Organised and hosted, in Belgium, the First European Congress for Cleft and Craniofacial
  • Support Groups in 2005, attended by representatives of 12 European support groups
  • Award: “The Feather of Merit Antwerp” 2006
  • “Katie’s Dream” (2007).  32 p. illustrated – Author Mariette Vermeylen-Nuyts. Illustrations,  Ann De Bode, Translation by Kerri Vermeylen. 

Katie's Dream:

Katie's Dream“Katie’s Dream”  is a story, illustrated by Ann De Bode and translated by Kerri Vermeylen, of hope and optimism. A story of acceptance of the things in life that are not possible, and the triumph in discovering what can be achieved. A story for all children with a different face, as well as their families, friends, classmates and teachers.


 Review of Katie's Dream:
*** This story book is about a little girl named Katie that wishes to play the flute, but discovers that because of her cleft lip and palate, it is more challenging than she had hoped. With the help of her friend, Fay, Katie visits other kids around the word who play different musical instruments, and who also have a cleft lip and palate. Katie decides to learn how to play a different instrument for now until her palate is fully repaired and she can try the flute again.

This book has wonderful, colourful pictures and a lovely storyline. It is warm and gentle story that gives children with a cleft lip and palate a realistic approach to some of the barriers or challenges they may face in life and offers hope for the possibilities in the future. It provides them with optimistic alternatives and options so that they do not limit themselves – even though having a cleft lip and palate can sometimes limit your options, it can also provide the determination and encouragement to find alternatives.

Mrs. Anna Pileggi
Executive Director AboutFace International Canada.
August 2007.  

*** “Katie’s Dream” is really beautifully written and illustrated. Congratulations on creating such an educational and sensitive book for children.

Brian Mullaney
Co-Founder & President The Smile Train USA.

*** "Katie's Dream is an uplifting story that will create feelings of compassion and understanding in your child. These same feelings led us to found Operation Smile more than 25 years ago. We enjoy reading Katie’s Dream to our grandchildren to help them understand what life is like for children like Katie and the possibilities that life has to offer these special children around the world."

William P. Magee Jr, D.D.S., M.D.
CEO and Co-founder of Operation Smile
Kathleen S. Magee, M.S.W., M.Ed.
President and Co-founder of Operation Smile
Operation Smile  - Norfolk VA 23509 – USA
December 17, 2007

How to order Katie's Dream:

 Europe  Delivery in Europe

VAGA vzw – Fruithoflaan 103 bus 3 – B-2600 Berchem
Price :  14,00 EURO  (incl.postage)
Bank : Dexia  068-2133526-38
IBAN: BE4 0682 1335 2638 -  BIC:GKCCBEBB

USA Delivery USA:

Jane and Douglas Jacobson
Price : $ 14.50 (exl.postage)
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or visit:

Mariette Vermeylen-Nuyts
Belgian Association for Congenital Facial Defects (VAGA) Jos Craeybeckxlaan 8,  B- 2180 Ekeren – Dit e-mail adres is beschermd door spambots, u heeft Javascript nodig om dit onderdeel te kunnen bekijken