“Build a Boat” Partnership Takes Sail

Singer Colton Dixon’s new song highlights Mercy Ships         

We are so honored to announce our partnership with Christian singer and former American Idol contestant Colton Dixon. After hearing about Mercy Ships’ mission of bringing hope and healing to children and families in sub-Saharan Africa through hospital ships, Colton’s team reached out to form the Build a Boat campaign.

In his teams’ press release exclusive given to People.com, Dixon shared, “Writing this song, ‘Build A Boat,’ obviously there was that immediate connection with Mercy Ships given that they build hospital ships, but more than that, I love the mission of what they do.”

“Being a parent now with twins of my own —  including our daughter who was born without a pulse and needed immediate medical attention —  it really hits close to home knowing we can help people, especially young kids, get the healthcare and surgery that they might not otherwise have access to.”

“We watched and prayed as the doctors and nurses resuscitated our daughter back to life… this song is all about having faith, and it means a lot that we can bring that hope to other people around the world.”

Colton’s new music video includes footage of the journey of two of our younger patients, Assane and Ousseynou.

Twice the Hope. Twice the Healing.

While 5-year-olds Assane and Ousseynou may look alike, it’s obvious to see their different personalities — Ousseynou is outgoing and cheeky, while Assane is quiet and reserved. However, if you were seeing them for the very first time, it would be very difficult to tell the two apart. 


They share more than just their good looks — both boys developed an identical condition that made their legs curve outward at the knee, and as they grew, their knees continued to grow further apart, causing them both to be ridiculed by those around them. The twin’s parents, Abdukka and Awa, worried that there was nothing that they could do to protect their children. 

“It was hard for us. We knew that the neighbors were laughing about the twins,” Awa said. “We could not hide Assane and Ousseynou away, so we all had to live with people treating them as inferior.”

Mame Sor, a nurse at the local clinic, knew of the twins’ ailment and dedicated her time to help their parents find healing. When Mame Sor heard about Mercy Ships coming to Senegal, she shared this exciting news with Awa and arranged to collect the boys and their mother to drive them to the patient registration. 

A Journey to Healing

Days before the twins were due to see a surgeon, she drove Awa and the twins 200 miles to the capital city of Dakar. This was the furthest the twins had ever been away from home, but the closest they had ever been to finding healing. It was also the first time any of them had seen a ship. 


Awa was a bit nervous about all of these new experiences, and even more so when the nurses came to take Ousseynou and then Assane to the operating theatres. But after the operation, when her boys were wheeled out, she was thrilled for the opportunity for free surgery! 

“When they came back to the ward after the surgery, and their legs were straight in their casts, I was so, so very happy,” she said. 

The Road to Recovery

During the weeks following the surgery, the twins quickly won over the hearts of the volunteer and day crew on the Africa Mercy while they worked on rehabilitation. They were soon discharged to the hospital outpatient extension (HOPE Center), where they continued their recovery along with the many other young orthopedic patients they had befriended. 

Once their casts came off, the physical therapy sessions became a bit tougher. The goal was to improve their range of motion as well as their balance and strength. Eventually, the twins were moving faster and more confidently than they had been able to before. 

“Since I gave birth to Assane and Ousseynou, I have never seen them run,” Awa said. “The surgeries created this opportunity. It is something that comes only once in a lifetime.”

Now, both boys are able to walk on straight legs, and their future is open to many possibilities.

Awa is so proud of her boys, saying, “I was living with doubt about their future, but the hard part of their life is over now!”