Dubai: The management and employees of a Dubai-headquartered company raised a whopping Dh560,000 to support a boy in Kerala, India, who needed a Dh9 million injection for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) — a rare genetic disorder.
The special drive by the employees and management of Abreco Group of Companies was part of a massive crowdfunding campaign to get Zolgensma, the world’s most expensive drug, for 18-month-old Mohammed.
Good Samaritans from Kerala and Malayalees across the world, along with their friends from different nationalities, took the responsibility of funding the treatment for Mohammed after the heart-wrenching story of his 15-year-old sister Afra, who also suffers from the same disease and is confined to a wheelchair, came to light last week.
Their parents, P.K. Rafeeq and Mariyumma, did not have the means to purchase Zolgensma, a single-dose intravenous injection gene therapy for SMA.
SMA is a group of hereditary diseases that progressively destroys motor neurons — nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord that control essential skeletal and muscular activities such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing — leading to muscle weakness and fatal degeneration.
It was Afra’s appeal to save her brother, because he needed the treatment before he turned two, that melted the hearts of thousands of people who crowdfunded the whopping Dh9 million in just seven days.
While several Indian expats and others from the UAE also pitched in after the boy’s story went viral on social media and Indian media, the employees of Abreco joined hands for the cause after the group’s founder and CEO, Madathil Mohammed Shaji, posted a video urging them also to help the boy.
“I just posted a two-minute video after seeing that the crowdfunding campaign for the boy still needed Dh2 million more. The response from our employees was amazing,” Shaji told Gulf News on Wednesday.
Refusing to divulge the fact that the lion’s share of the contribution came from him, Shaji said what mattered more was the involvement of the employees who donated money depending upon their capacity. “We didn’t do it for publicity. We don’t publicise our CSR [corporate social responsibility] activities. But, this time, it became viral because the campaign struck a chord with everyone. The credit should go to our employees from Dubai, Australia and Delhi who gave whatever they could,” he said.
Three more beneficiaries
The total amount of Dh560,000 was collected by “Abrecans” in just one-and-a-half days. However, by then, the crowdfunding campaign for Mohammed had met its target and the committee behind it declared that no more contributions would be needed.
Meanwhile, stories of three other Indian babies suffering from SMA had surfaced. Hence, Shaji said the group decided to equally share the collected amount among them.
Imran in Kerala, Mithra in Tamil Nadu and an unnamed baby of Lakshadweep resident Nazar P.K. are the three new beneficiaries who will receive the support of Abricans.
Betzy Varghese, human resources manager at Abreco, said even labourers and drivers took part in the drive. “Internally, we do a lot of CSR activities and we never disclose it. This is the first time it became public because this time, Shaji’s appeal inspired everyone. We are happy that our support will now help three families instead of just one.”
Abdul Majeed, director of operations and a member of the board of directors at Abreco, said: “The message was translated in different languages and staff members from different countries pitched in.” He added, the group has also handed over the keys to a house constructed for a former employee, who passed away four years ago.