A Bay man has seen first-hand just how life-changing cleft lip surgery can be and is now willing to shave off the beard he has been growing for three years to help other kids have a shot at a normal life.

Hamish MacMillan's daughter Emily was born with a cleft lip and has had numerous surgeries to correct it.

"We talk about these operations giving these kids a smile, but they give a kid a life. It lets them eat, swallow, drink, breathe and talk and then it lets them smile."Oceanside Family Chiropractic owner Hamish MacMillan


Oceanside Family Chiropractic owner, Mr MacMillan, said he was in his cricket clubhouse when he was asked what it would take to cut off his voluminous beard.

"I said I couldn't really think of a good enough reason and they said, 'what about cash?' I said, 'it was a bit shallow but maybe for charity'."


His wife Jessica and daughter Emily were already volunteering for Ruel Foundation, a non-government-organisation based in the Philippines which hoped to raise $8000 to deliver 120 surgeries to children who suffer from cleft palate and cleft lip in the next few months, so he took on the challenge.

"I raise $5000 and I will shave off my beard."

Emily MacMillan. Photo/Ruth Keber
Emily MacMillan. Photo/Ruth Keber

Mr MacMillan said his daughter Emily, now 10, was born with one of the rarest forms of clefts there are.

"None of her team of doctors had seen that before, [it happens in] one in 50,000 live births.

"When she was born they told us she will never breast feed, she will struggle to speak properly, she will have learning difficulties, she won't hear very well. But now at 10 she is the top of her class. She sings beautifully. She does struggle with her hearing and has scars - but she is just an awesome kid. She has confounded all the predictions."

Emily started having surgeries to correct her cleft lip from the age of three months, with more planned for the future.

Mr MacMillan said there were children similar to his daughter in the Philippines without any of that help.

"They just don't get the surgery, there is no healthcare in these outlying islands and villages and if they survive they are ostracised because they look different.

"We talk about these operations giving these kids a smile, but they give a kid a life. It lets them eat, swallow, drink, breathe and talk and then it lets them smile.

"To be able to do 120 surgeries for as little as $8000 is just mind-blowing, if that is what's stopping 120 kids from living life. It's literally life-changing and in a lot of cases, life-saving."

To support Mr MacMillan and his cause head to his Givealittle page.

Ruel Foundation director Pauline Curtis-Smith said the money Mr MacMillan was fundraising would be life-changing for the children.

"They have no hope of an education or a future without it."

Tauranga woman Mrs Curtis-Smith said even with the recent typhoon in the Philippines she was not swayed to come home, having been there for the past 12 years.

"I miss my friends and family so much ... I stay because of the deep need here. There are so many people here who have lost everything [in the recent typhoon]."