Aissatou: A father’s love.

In 2022 was not the first time that Ousmane had sought medical help for his daughter Aissatou. Since his little girl was born with a cleft lip four years earlier, he had been in pursuit of her healing. The family had visited multiple hospitals in Senegal, but none could provide the help they needed.

Others in his village started to lose hope, telling Ousmane that his daughter’s cleft lip was beyond repair.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take Aissatou long to learn that she looked different than other children. Deciding privacy was the best way to keep her safe, her parents draped a cloth over her face to cover her up in public. When visitors from other villages arrived, Aissatou would be hidden away in a room.

Ousmane witnessed all of this with deep sorrow. “I love my daughter so much, I would never stop looking for her healing,” he said. Despite the voices telling him to give up, Ousmane refused to stop searching for help. In 2019, when he heard that Mercy Ships was bringing its hospital ship, the Africa Mercy®, to Senegal, he was determined – this was their answer.

Hope and prayers

Aissatou and Ousmane made the journey across Senegal to the ship, where Aissatou received an appointment for her operation. But before her surgery date came, the Africa Mercy had to leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of all the setbacks they had endured, Ousmane remained hopeful that Mercy Ships would provide the help his daughter needed: “In my heart I knew that these people would help my daughter. I just kept praying and hoping that the ship would return.”

Their hopes and prayers were answered years later, when the Africa Mercy returned to Senegal in 2022. Ousmane’s tireless efforts were rewarded at long last: Aissatou received surgery to heal her cleft lip.

When the father saw his daughter for the first time after her operation, he could not contain his excitement: “I am so happy now, but during the surgery I was afraid. See, I don’t know anything about surgery, and I had no idea what was happening. It took a long time before she came back, but when she came back, I was so happy! When I saw her, I knew it; the surgeons are real heroes!”

While Aissatou recovered on board the Africa Mercy, Ousmane hardly ever stopped smiling. He was humbled by the love and care both he and his daughter received, as he saw how this allowed Aissatou to flourish. Without the cleft lip holding her back, the little girl became more confident to step out and speak up. Often, she would pick up toys she had never seen before, longing to explore the unknown.

One of ward nurses, Bekah, grew incredibly fond of Aissatou and her father: “It was so special to see their bond together. Thanks to Ousmane’s love for his daughter, she found healing and it reminds me of how much our heavenly Father loves us.”

The village’s daughter

Once Aissatou had healed, it was time to return to their village. The community could not believe their eyes when they saw her. Many had been convinced that Aissatou would never find healing, but here she was, fully healed. Aissatou’s mother, Khadija, was filled with joy: “When Ousmane and Aissatou left for the ship, I was afraid. I couldn’t eat or drink and I wondered if she was going to receive treatment or not because she went to the hospital repeatedly and came back without being treated. Until the day Ousmane finally called me and told me she had the surgery. And when they finally returned home, I was so happy! I cannot thank you enough.”

One of the elders in the village proclaimed that Aissatou was the village’s proof of hope: “We had lost all hope. We thought she was going to die like this. Nobody believed that she would be healed, because all the other hospitals had nothing other than empty promises. But then Mercy Ships came, and you showed us that there was hope. And now you have healed our village’s daughter. We had lost hope, but you proved that there is always hope. And for that, we will always be thankful.”

Thanks to the love and determination of her father, Aissatou had a new future – one where she could go to school and provide for herself someday. But more importantly, she would never have to hide away in her room again – instead, she would serve as living proof that there is always hope.

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Como voluntarios en buques hospitales, viajamos para ofrecer servicios de salud gratuitos de clase mundial y atención quirúrgica segura. Nos dedicamos a fortalecer los sistemas de salud locales, marcando una diferencia en comunidades con acceso limitado a la salud.