Mouhamed lives with his family in a tiny, remote village located in the interior of Senegal. This village isn’t even on the map, so unless you know someone who lives there, you wouldn’t know this place existed. To reach it, travellers need to follow a red dirt road for several miles, before walking through open grassland.
Despite its geographical isolation, 11-year-old Mouhamed’s village is a diverse community made up of people who come from different tribes, speak different languages, and have different cultures. Yet, regardless of their differences, they are brought together by a common value —solidarity. The people of this village help one another —sharing food and stories, as well as each other’s joys and sorrows.
So, when a bump formed in young Mouhamed’s mouth two years ago, it wasn’t just a problem for him and his father, Mactar. It was a problem for the whole community. Mactar and the community were determined to support the young boy, but with a lack of access to safe surgery, no one was quite sure how.
As the tumour grew, Mouhamed seemed to shrink. The tumour disfigured Mouhamed’s face and took away his ability to speak properly, which resulted in him barely speaking at all. Overshadowed by the pain and shame of his affliction, he retreated inward.
“My greatest dream is to see my son living as he did in the past,” Mactar said.
Mouhamed’s family searched for two years for a cure, but when a second bump appeared, it seemed like the boy would never heal.
“To see my child suffering when there was nothing I could do to help him… I was helpless,” Mactar recalled tearfully. “We continued to wait and hope that one day we would be able to find another solution to heal Mouhamed.”
That solution arrived one day when a radio broadcast announced the arrival of the Africa Mercy in Senegal.
“When I first heard about Mercy Ships, I felt a new wind of hope,” Mactar said.
Although the trip from their village to the Port of Dakar would be a long one, it would be worth it. After the registration and screening processes, Mouhamed was given a surgery date, turning his hope for healing into a reality.
“I was certainly the happiest father on earth,” Mactar said. “I am an older man, it’s true, but if there were music, I would have danced, I was so happy.”
After his surgery, all it took was one look at Mouhamed to see that he was a different boy. And as time went on, he would continue to blossom. Mouhamed’s recovery was so much more than physical healing —it was a complete metamorphosis of his spirit. The tumour that had been holding him back was gone, and he was finally set free. Free to be a carefree 11-year-old boy and receive love and return it.
Before the operation, Mouhamed struggled to make eye contact when spoken to and only replied with nods. After the surgery, Mouhamed’s cheerful voice could be heard ringing throughout the ward when he greeted a familiar face! He made eye contact, but even more than that, he was unafraid to express his affection.
“I hope that those who have never known Mouhamed will never know that something was ever wrong with him,” his father said.
After recovering from the operation, Mouhamed was ready to return home. That day it was clear that the young boy cheerfully waving goodbye from the vehicle was not the same boy who had arrived on the dock two months earlier.
“My son has a new face and a new life,” Mactar said, smiling.
Upon their return to their village, the father and son were greeted by their entire community —even the village chief came out to celebrate Mouhamed’s homecoming!
“The way he interacts with others now has totally changed. It’s incredible…we were once hopeless, living a nightmare, and now our lives have changed.”
Written By: Andrea Rosewicz; Edited By: Haley Hoar & Andrea Gilbert