The incredible story of cleft baby Maui from Colombia

Just a few weeks ago, we signed a cooperation with the Colombian surgeon Dr. Jorge Navarro – the beginning of our new aid project in Colombia. At that time, we had no idea what fateful significance this would soon have for a little boy. A touching story.

How it all began

On April 21, we receive an unusual e-mail. The sender tells us about her friend Julia, who lives in Colombia. A few days ago, she had taken in a child with cleft “to save it from death,” she writes. They ask if we know of a medical contact point for the child, and if we can provide financial support for the treatment. Stefanie Huter, who manages our projects in Latin America, immediately reaches out to Julia.

A child’s fate
Julia is originally from Switzerland. She lives, along with her two daughters, Aruna (5) and Abhinaya (2), near an indigenous tribe, the Kogi. The Kogi families have little contact with the outside world, rarely leave their village, and only few speak Spanish. In this village, Maui is born on March 28. He has a cleft lip and palate. The parents are ashamed because Maui looks different from the other children. Because of Maui’s cleft palate, breastfeeding him is impossible. When Julia sees the baby for the first time, she fears bad things. She knows that children like Maui are abandoned to their fate among the Kogi. And indeed, Julia’s fears come true: Maui is just three days old when she finds the crying infant, all alone, lying wrapped in dirty cloths. His parents have left him there.

Guardian angel for Maui

Julia knows she must act fast. She takes the boy to a doctor in the next town for examination. Other than the cleft, the little boy is perfectly healthy. Relieved, Julia sets off to see Maui’s family. The villagers know her; Julia’s children play with their children. Julia tries to convince Maui’s family that their son’s cleft can be closed with an operation, and that he will be able to live a completely normal life afterwards. But the parents do not want or cannot accept Maui as their child. Instead, they ask Julia if she doesn’t want to take Maui into her care. They trust Julia and presumably they suspect that their son will do well with her. Although Julia knows that her life will not become easier with a third child, she does not hesitate. She takes Maui in to live with her. Aruna and Abhinaya love their new foster brother.

The road to the first surgery

And we do not hesitate either and assure Julia of our help. On May 2, Julia presents Maui to our surgeon Dr. Jorge Navarro in his clinic in Baranquilla, five hours from Julia’s home. Dr. Navarro explains the treatment to Julia. That same day, the mold for a palatal plate is made, and a follow-up appointment is scheduled. Maui is gaining weight under Julia’s care, and if he continues to do so well, Dr. Navarro will be able to operate his cleft lip as early as late July.

Help Maui

A helpless baby is abandoned to his fate and given away by his parents because of his cleft. Maui’s story is unimaginable for us. But unfortunately it is not a rarity in our project countries. But Maui’s story had a happy end! And we are glad that with Dr. Navarro we have found a surgeon who takes care of children like Maui, that people like Julia exist, and that we are able to help give kids like Maui a chance in life.

We have promised Julia to fund the surgeries and necessary follow-up therapies for Maui, including costs like the transport from her home to the clinic. You too can help children like Maui, with your donation!