SENEGAL —“I have never had hope that one day I would be healed.” Samba carried this outlook about his cleft lip until the medical vessel the Global Mercy Ships came to Senegal. He admitted, “I wasn’t happy I was born like that,” but without access to affordable surgical care, he couldn’t imagine a different future.
But when Mercy Ships arrived in his home country, 56-year-old Samba was able to finally receive the healing that he needed. For the first time in a long time, Samba found that he could say, “I have hope.”
I’m too shy to speak in front of a camera. I was born with a cleft lip. I am now 56 years old. I’ve had a cleft lip for 56 years. People used to laugh at me when they saw me. It was really a tough period. There was a time, when I looked at myself and I would feel frustrated. My friends ran away from me, they wouldn’t even sit down with me.
When I heard about the ship and the surgeries, I really wanted to come because I knew with God’s will that mouth would be repaired. The first time I got on board the ship, I was so scared. I was scared because I thought they were going to take out all my teeth. I also thought it would be painful to fix my lips. I was scared, but the surgeon reassured my and he said he would do his best.
When I met Samba, what particularly struck me about him was that he had this intrinsic sense of self-worth despite everything that he’d been through. He was so engaging, he wanted to tell you his story, he wanted to know more about you and he wanted to interact with everyone around him. I was like, this is someone that, you know, if I just came and you were the only person I operated on, I’d be a happy man. I don’t mean that lightly, you know, I kind of think to myself, this guy’s been sitting around for 55 years waiting for someone to come along and help him with his lip, or maybe even never imagining it could have happened.
The irony is that in places like Australia, you operate on children one year of age. By one year of age, most cleft lips will have been repaired. So you come to a place like Senegal, and it’s like you meet someone who’s 56 years old, who’s got an unrepaired cleft lip, and it’s just like, wow, you know, how did this happen? How did you get to this age? but it does, it’s common and for what the Lancet Commission tells us there’s five billion people out there who can’t access care and safe, timely, affordable surgery. I mean that’s a massive thing and I think you know we’re humans, his worth doesn’t change just because I did a cleft lip repair right, so with his personality in particular he can now be him.
I feel so handsome now. When I look at myself, I feel so happy. My face has changed a lot compared to the way it was before. I’ve changed, I don’t like the man I used to be. When I went to town to meet you, people were calling me. They said: “Samba, you’re handsome and you look good now.” What you have done for me comes from God. I never thought that one day my lips would be repaired. I’m so grateful to God and to you.
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 55 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.7 billion and directly benefitting more than 2.8 million people. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 60 nations, with an average of over 1,200 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and an Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on www.mercyships.org.
CONTACT: Diane Rickard, Int’l Media Relations Manager, Mercy Ships, Diane.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Global News Alliance, Samba’s Mercy Ships Journey Towards Hope in Senegal
- Mercy Ships, Official Website