In central Senegal, a young woman gave birth to a baby — her firstborn child. It should have been a moment of celebration. Yet when she saw her baby, Adama, for the first time, that joy was slowly overshadowed by fear for her daughter’s future. Adama had been born with a cleft lip, and her mother knew there was nothing she could do to fix it.
She believed her daughter would have a better life, so she sent her to live with her grandparents. 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.
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.
Without access to surgery to heal Adama’s condition, Binta had begun to believe that her granddaughter’s future would always be hindered. Then one day, a spark of hope ignited.
Binta heard about a hospital ship that was visiting her country. Though she was hesitant at first, she knew that this was Adama’s chance for healing. Fueled by love for her granddaughter, Binta and Adama made the long journey across the country toward the port city of Dakar, Senegal where the Africa Mercy® was docked.
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 would receive surgery.
While on board the Africa Mercy, Binta noticed her granddaughter healing both in body and spirit.
“While we were on the ship, Adama’s curiosity grew immensely,” she shared. “I think it was the people on the ship who helped her to explore that side even more.”
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. On the ship, Adama loved playing with the other kids and the nurses.”
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.
“We have always wanted the best for her, and we would have never given up on Adama,” Issa shared. “But now she is healed, and that hard time is behind us. It is time for celebration now!”
Today Adama’s childhood is free of the limitations she was born with, and her curiosity can take flight. One can only imagine what the future will hold for this little girl.