It began at Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld’s kitchen table. Since modestly launching miraclefeet in 2010, the nonprofit has helped more than 10,000 children in 13 impoverished countries learn to walk. It’s changed the lives of thousands of families forever. Chesca and the team at miraclefeet work vigilantly to help treat cases of clubfoot all around the world.
One in every 750 babies are born with clubfoot, a congenital condition that causes one or both feet to be turned severely inward. It’s the No. 1 cause of physical disability. Mia Hamm was born with it. Those who learn to walk with clubfoot often end up walking on the tops of their feet very slowly and very painfully.
Chesca saw much of this condition in her childhood, growing up in developing countries as the daughter of a British diplomat. She’s lived in Swaziland, Turkey, Zambia, Malaysia, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ecuador. So she understands the devastating effects of poverty. “When you live in those places, it’s hard not to be moved by the total gulf between privileges,” she says.
After receiving her degree from UNC, where she was a Morehead Scholar, she and her husband, Rudi, found themselves working in business in Iowa. She became good friends with Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, who had perfected a new method for treating clubfoot without surgery – something unheard of in the world of medicine. The treatment uses progressive casts to move the tendons in feet from turning inward to outward over the course of several weeks. Soon, this new method became the leading clubfoot remedy.
Suddenly, the light bulb turned on. “I thought, ‘I don’t know where, I don’t know how, but I’ve figured out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,’” Chesca recalls.
Chesca, her husband and their three children moved back to Chapel Hill when UNC’s department of anthropology recruited Rudi. That’s when Chesca came up with a plan to take this new gold-star Ponseti method (for which many were paying thousands of dollars) and make it more accessible.
The nonprofit is housed in a renovated two-story home on Main Street in Carrboro. The team works with local doctors and medical staff in many developing countries, training them on the Ponseti method. Children with clubfoot can now be treated for only $250. “We drop $250 fairly quickly here in America,” Chesca says. “And yet that changes the life of a child. We believe that if we could raise the money, we could eradicate clubfoot – globally.”