Saliou, An Unshakable Smile

Saliou was too young to realize that he was different. At 2 years old, the little boy had no idea that his cleft lip set him apart from the other children. Blissfully unaware, the condition had no damper on Saliou’s personality, which brought joy to everyone he met.

While some might view Saliou’s condition as a reason to feel shame, especially in West Africa, where the lack of medical access can cause a person to live with the defect for a lifetime, Saliou’s grandmother, Ndiane refused to let his condition hinder her love.

“He’s so handsome,” she said while holding his photo.

Despite her admiration for Saliou, Ndiane still hoped that he wouldn’t have to grow up with a cleft lip which, she worried would cause him to become an outcast when he was older.

“If he didn’t get surgery, he would be different from the other children,” she said.

Unfortunately, Saliou’s family didn’t have the means to find healing for him. With very minimal access to safe, affordable surgery, Ndiane resorted to the only thing she could do — she prayed for a miracle. She held on to the hope that one day, her sweet Saliou would be healed.

After two years of waiting on a miracle, Ndiane was thrilled to hear about a hospital ship that was docked in the capital city of Senegal. This devoted grandmother traveled 12 hours to bring Saliou to the Africa Mercy for a surgery that would change his life forever.

“When I heard about the ship’s arrival, I was relieved,” she said. “Then, I made the decision to stop everything and bring him because this will impact his future!”

Ndaine’s heart swelled with joy and gratitude after Saliou’s operation — her grandson was finally healed! Now the young boy’s future looks brighter than ever.

“I’m giving thanks to God and the people at Mercy Ships,” Ndaine said. “I didn’t have anywhere to get surgery for Saliou, and they did that for me.”