In central Senegal, a young woman gave birth to a baby – her firstborn child. It should have been a moment of great celebration. Yet when she looked down at her newborn, Adama, joy was instantly replaced by fear. Adama was born with a cleft lip, and her mother had no idea what this would mean for her future.
Believing she had done something wrong, she decided to leave Adama with grandparents so they could protect the baby.
Binta, Adama’s grandmother, took the newborn in and spent the next four years caring for her like her own. It was hard to feed Adama – a common issue for babies born with a cleft lip, leaving many struggling with malnutrition – but Binta kept trying until she was strong enough to survive. Despite the challenges, Adama’s grandparents never gave up.
Curiosity all around
Thanks to the love she received from her grandparents, Adama grew up strong and filled with curiosity. As soon as she was able, she wanted to help her grandparents work on the farm.
“She would always watch us as we did our work,” said her grandfather, Issa. “She was always curious and tried to mimic our behavior to see if she could do the same.”
Adama loved pushing the bounds of her curiosity, but her scope for exploration was limited. Due to her cleft lip, Adama was afraid to play with other children, as they would often look or laugh at her. Instead, she decided to stay close to her grandparents, where she felt safe.
Binta had accepted that this was Adama’s fate and had little hope that she would find healing one day.
Until the day she heard about Mercy Ships and a spark of hope ignited. Binta was not sure whether she could trust Mercy Ships, but decided to take a chance, fueled by love for her granddaughter.
She and Adama made the long journey across the country towards the port city of Dakar, Senegal. After a few appointments with Mercy Ships’ healthcare volunteers, Binta could hardly believe her ears when she heard the words she never thought she would hear: Adama was cleared for surgery.
New friendships and a lot of love
Adama and Binta boarded the Africa Mercy®, where Adama received surgery for her cleft lip. Besides her physical healing, Binta noticed another type of change taking place in her granddaughter.
“While we were on the ship, Adama’s curiosity grew immensely. I think it was the people on the ship who helped her to explore that side even more. The crew and day crew would often act like children themselves, so Adama would feel comfortable exploring around them,” she laughed.
Adama even made a new friend on board, Aminata, a girl who was also healing from a cleft lip surgery. The girls became playmates, constantly giggling together and pointing at everyone around them.
Thanks to the love and friendships they experienced on board, Adama recovered fully and quickly. As the two prepared for the long journey back to their community, Binta shared her gratitude for Mercy Ships: “I am so happy. Only God can do this. I thank God and all the nurses and the day crew. Here on the ship, Adama loved playing with the other kids and with the nurses.”
Healing for a whole family
When Adama and Binta returned home, their whole community was in awe of the change in front of their eyes. Her grandfather, Issa, had tears in his eyes when he saw that his little girl was healed.
“It was a hard time caring for her, but we have always wanted the best for her, and we would never give up on Adama. But now she is healed, and that hard time is behind us. It is time for celebration now!”
Adama can experience a childhood free of limitations and endless possibilities to explore her curiosity. One can only imagine what the future will hold for this little girl.