Freed from shame – Aminata’s story

Ousman was excited to receive the call from his sister saying that his niece had finally been born. However, that excitement quickly turned into heartache once he learned that baby Aminata had been born with a cleft lip. When he heard the distress in his sister’s voice, Ousman felt desperate to help both her and her child.

As she grew, young Aminata’s condition began to cause malnutrition, making her body develop very slowly. At eight years old, Aminata’s height and build resembled that of her four-year-old cousin’s. Because she was ashamed of the way she ate, she refused to eat in public and instead, would only nibble on meals that were placed around the house for her to find.

‘Aminata would only eat by herself, and she found it hard,’ Ousman explained. ‘Other children used to laugh at her and say that her mouth was always open when she ate. Even with the safety of family, she was ashamed and would only eat alone.’

Ousman spent many years listening to the cries of his sister, begging him for help. He shared her pain, saying, ‘My sister cried every day for Aminata, and I told her I would find help. Knowing I was searching in the city was the only thing that kept her calm.’

After eight years and several failed attempts to find a solution, the family had all but given up.

‘It was a very sad time because we knew surgery was her only hope and we just couldn’t get it,’ Ousman said. ‘It was sad to leave her this way, but we had no other choice as we couldn’t afford to do anything without help.’

One day, Ousman heard an advertisement on the radio about a ship that offered free surgeries. After hearing about the patient selection process, he wasted no time in rushing to collect Aminata from the village. Unfortunately, by the time he returned to the capital, they had missed the screening. Ousman, however, was not ready to give up. He took Aminata straight to the Africa Mercy to see if there was anything Mercy Ships could do to help her.

‘In the village, we are very poor, and this ship was our only hope,’ Ousman said. ‘I feel responsible for Aminata because if she was to grow up she would be outcast and I could not let that happen. I am the only sibling in the city, so I had to do something.’

Once Aminata was accepted as a patient, Ousman was excited to make the call to his sister letting her know the fantastic news — Aminata was going to receive surgery! Following the surgery, Aminata was able to heal knowing that her family had never given up on her.

‘To give up hope would be the end,’ Ousman said. ‘We did not think about what would happen if she did not get surgery. We held on to the hope we had… Now, she has so many more opportunities, and we are so blessed. We are so thankful for all that was done for our family.’

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