Photo by Mashal Memon/The Gazelle

Operation Smile's Biannual Book Sale Raises 59,000 AED for children with deformities

By the banisters of the first and second floors of Al Wahda Mall lies a large assortment of books. They are being shuffled and sorted out onto tables, ...

Apr 16, 2016

Photo by Mashal Memon/The Gazelle
By the banisters of the first and second floors of Al Wahda Mall lies a large assortment of books. They are being shuffled and sorted out onto tables, handled by customers and placed into bags by volunteers. At the very center of this hubbub are several posters of children. On the left are pictures of faces with cleft lips and palates. On the right are pictures of the same children but with one unmistakable difference: a smile. It’s that time of the year again: the Operation Smile UAE biannual Al Wahda Mall Book Sale.
Operation Smile is an international charity organization that offers surgeries to children born with facial defects, particularly cleft lips or cleft palates. By providing free treatment and care to those afflicted, they strive to save lives and create smiles on children’s faces.
The idea of a UAE-based Operation Smile began in 2010 when Her Highness Sheikha Alyazia bint Saif Al Nahyan contacted Morag Cromey-Hawke, the executive director of Operation Smile UAE, with the intention of setting up a charity that treats facial deformities in children. Of all the charities and organizations they considered, Operation Smile stuck out because of its reliance on volunteers, ranging from paediatricians to speech and language therapists from all over the world. Furthermore, as an educationist, Cromey-Hawke was inspired by the idea of having to give presentations to high school and university students in order to recruit volunteers.
The Operation Smile Al Wahda Book Sale is a weekend-long event — it was held this year from April 7 to April 10, and it has been running for six years now. Days leading up to the event are busy as they are spent collecting book donations. Not only does the book sale raise money to fund correctional surgeries, but it also provides the public with access to affordable books.
Photo by Mashal Memon
Photo by Mashal Memon
For every thousand dirhams raised, volunteers break into song and dance as Pharrell Williams’ Happyis played for a brief moment. Shoppers in the mall turn their heads and approach the book sale with intrigue, observing the sudden moment of collective celebration and excitement. A smile is added to the large Smile Thermometer on the wall, showing that another surgery has been funded.
Apart from the affordable prices, there is also a wide selection of categories, such as fiction, computing, law and education.
“We get great advice from everybody. Everybody says, When are you doing the next one? before we’ve even finished this one,” said Cromey-Hawke.
In addition to the book sale, a Grand Teddy Bear Raffle was also held. Raffle tickets were 10 AED each and came with the chance of winning three teddy bears.
With a grand total of 59,000 AED raised from donations, the book sale and the raffle exceeded Oct. 2015’s grand total of 58,000 AED. From this year’s book sale alone, 35,000 AED was raised.
Apart from the Al Wahda Mall Book Sale, Operation Smile UAE encourages reading through a book sale held every Monday at their Smile Café. Here, customers can purchase books while enjoying a coffee break.
Last year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum declared 2016 to be the Year of Reading in the UAE in order to promote reading among the youth and produce a generation of book lovers. In terms of the future, Operation Smile UAE may host a series of events and activities in Al Wahda Mall as a follow-up to the Al Wahda Mall Book Sale to foster reading habits.
“We have yet to confirm what we’re going to do but we’re trying to come up with some creative ideas on what would be nice, maybe like bedtime stories and PJs for the kids, reading out loud, illustrations [and] contests,” said Operation Smile UAE Community and Events Coordinator Majd Rbaihat.
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