When Susan and Santhosh Mathews saw the first ultrasound of their son Philip, they were told there was no chance of his survival. Their baby had a cleft lip and palate, a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of his heart, and was missing his right eye, right ear and stomach cavity.
But they were strong in their faith that their son would live. They were right — Philip will be 18 in July, and next year he'll be a senior in high school.
Recognizing that not all children have access to the level of care provided by the team of craniofacial doctors that treated Philip, they founded Love Without Reason in December of 2007 to help with craniofacial surgeries in Santhosh Mathews' native India.
The organization arranges free medical camps in rural villages, where many people believe children with facial deformities are cursed — and where facial surgery could change the course of a child's life.
Susan Mathews said they didn't make a connection between facial deformities and trafficking until five years after starting Love Without Reason, when they learned from another nonprofit organization that children born with birth defects often are sold to human traffickers, or supported in order to harvest their organs and sell them on the black market.
Love Without Reason also tries to help those who are already enslaved, and to help their children, who often continue the cycle by repeating what they see, Mathews said. To prevent this, they launched Project Butterfly, which provides job skills and business opportunities for women rescued or released from slavery in the red-light districts of Mumbai.
"We break that cycle by helping that mother to support her family," she said. "Then there's a great possibility her children won't fall into the slave pathway."
Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Love Without Reason's goal for the next five to 10 years is to become a disaster relief organization.
"When natural disasters occur, some of the first people who come to these areas are human traffickers," said Mathews. "Children are left vulnerable; there are young women who are hungry. They just exploit them."
She said they want to go where disasters occur and provide a safe place for vulnerable people to go until their family is found.
The organization has also extended its work outside of India into Zimbabwe, where Love Without Reason traveled for the first time last June and again in February. In the span of six months, 106 surgeries were performed.
Word has gotten out about the organization's work in neighboring countries such as Tanzania and Malawi, and they've been granted permission from the leadership in Kenya to set up a camp there in mid-July, Mathews said.
Their goal is to raise $70,000 by July 1 to help pay for surgeries, supplies and medicine.
All told, the organization hopes to raise $1 million over the next 12 months to provide 1,000 surgeries.
"Our goal is not just to see how many we can do; it's also about the quality," Mathews said, adding that they see the children they help as their own children and want them to receive the same quality of care that Philip received. "I know what it's like to see your child struggle."
There are all kinds of ways people can help to further the organization's work, from in-kind donations to volunteering at its two major fundraisers: the 5k Run 4 Love held in September and a fashion show held in October.
"We're all partners in this," said Mathews. "You can never put a price on the life of a child."
For more information, visit lovewithoutreason.org.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org