Pupil in Abu Dhabi raises Dh11,000 for patients with cleft lips and palates

Maximilian Hoehn used the money given to him on his birthday to help those who cannot afford surgery

A pupil in Abu Dhabi raised Dh11,000 for people born with cleft lips and palates, after urging his friends and relatives to donate to the cause instead of buying him birthday presents.

Maximilian Hoehn, 10, saw several photos of children before and after the repair surgery and said he felt it was important to help.

He partnered with Operation Smile, a global non-profit organisation, that helps those who cannot afford the surgery get access to treatment.

I didn't want any gifts for myself and wanted to use the money for those who needed it

A cleft lip or palate is a birth defect that happens when a baby’s lip or mouth is not formed properly during pregnancy.

The Cleft Lip and Palate Association reported that one in 700 babies are born with a cleft globally.

“One year, I could hardly tell what I would like to have for my birthday,” Maximilian said.

“I am happy and have everything I need, so I asked about other children who I could help. I didn’t want any gifts for myself and wanted to use the money for those who needed it.”

The Hoehn family decided to work with the UAE branch of the Operation Smile organisation and started a YallaGive page. The Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department licensed his donation drive.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 9, 2021.  Maximillian Hoehn 10 year old raises Dh11,000 for UAE charity, Operation Smile. Max with an appreciation plaque from Operation Smile UAE.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Sarwat Nasir

Maximilian’s father, Christian Hoehn, said that once the fundraiser was set up, they asked his grandparents, other relatives and friends to donate.

“As my company supported Operation Smile before, we knew that the money is really used for a good cause and that nothing gets lost in bank transfers or similar," he said.

“We know that many doctors, nurses and support staff contribute their free time to help children with a cleft.

“Operation Smile is doing a great job finding these doctors and nurses, finding hospitals which they can use for free or very little money and finding hotels where the surgery team, the patient and his family can stay. We liked this charity as it helps change a child’s life.”

SAHAB, JORDAN: A Child is treated by his mother after he was operated for the Cleft-lip by the doctors of Operation Smile on June 16, 2008 in Totanji hospital in Sahab, Jordan. (Salah Malkawi/ The National)

The goal was to raise Dh10,000, but Maximilian managed to get Dh11,011.

The average cost of a repair surgery per person can range between Dh30,000 to Dh70,000.

But Operation Smile UAE manages to bring down the cost sometimes through partnerships and volunteers.

Morag Cromey-Hawke, director of operations at Operation Smile UAE, said the funds raised by Maximilian would help many patients.

“What he did was amazing. The money will go towards paying for the expenses for surgeries for children in the UAE and also towards the international medical missions once they have resumed operations,” she said.

“So for people in Malawi, Madagascar, Vietnam, Philippines, Morocco and Jordan.”

Operation Smile was founded in 1982 and the UAE branch was formed in 2011.

Since its inception, more than 3,500 children globally have benefitted from the help provided by the UAE office.

In the last four years, 55 patients in the Emirates have been operated on.

“We've also provided comprehensive care, as well as speech and language therapy,” Ms Cromey-Hawke said.

“We provide dental and orthodontic treatment. Our paediatricians are amazing. They follow up on the new babies and help teach the mothers how to feed the baby.”