5. Ebenezer, Ghana 2006

Ebenezer couldn’t understand the sudden, horrendous pain in his feet that brought him to a halt. He tried to brush away whatever was causing him agony, but the pain spread to his hands. Ebenezer had stumbled into a hidden fire pit.


When Jason was 13, there was only one thing on his mind – soccer. ‘I played at school, after school, after dinner and, sometimes, even before breakfast. That was not uncommon for boys of my age and at the time I would repeat the same routine day after day.

‘I never give it a second thought. That was until I met Ebenezer in 2006 when he came to the Mercy Ship for reconstructive surgery when we were docked in Ghana. I lived on board with my family. Ebenezer was just a few years younger than me but was just as much of a soccer enthusiast as I was. There was just one problem – his feet were disfigured and he struggled to play.

‘Years before I met him, Ebenezer was running through a field wearing a pair of plastic sandals. Unbeknownst to him, it was a field where charcoal was being burned under a layer of leaves and shrubbery. As he ran over the red-hot embers, the plastic from his footwear melted off, fusing to his skin. In a panic, Ebenezer attempted to scrape the now boiling molten plastic off his feet, only to have it transferred to his hands creating critical burns. His hands and fingers became useless claws as the scars became rock hard

He came to the Mercy Ship for free surgery. Before his procedure, there was not much we could do soccer-wise. We gently passed the ball to each other, but because of his injuries, even this was a challenge. Despite this, he insisted on playing. After his surgery, all he wanted to do was play. He was still bandaged up and couldn’t kick a ball – I’m sure the nurses told him not to go near a soccer field. But that didn’t stop him. As he healed, we got to play more and more. The smile on his face, although impossibly large when even before the surgery, grew every time we kicked the ball around.

‘It was amazing to see someone life transformed so dramatically. To see something that held Ebenezer back so badly, be suddenly gone. He might not have understood what was going on; as well as being young, he did not speak English. But it was clear to me his life would never be the same again.

Maybe one day, we’ll get to have a re-match – although I don’t rate my chances. ‘

Skin grafts released Ebenezer’s hands and feet, and he received physiotherapy to help him regain his long-forgotten fine motor skills. His mother was so impressed she decided the vessel and crew must be heaven sent. ‘I believe the nurses and doctors are little angels dropped from heaven just for my Ebenezer to get a chance at living again. My boy is alive, he smiles and I see the light in his eyes.’

Jason Walls