Nineteen-year-old Sayoe never imagined she would be greeted with anything except joy when she gave birth to her first child. But when baby Mohammed was born with a cleft lip and palate, people accused her of witchcraft, saying that her baby’s deformity was a curse. Despite being encouraged to abandon Mohammed, who was even called a ‘devil child,’ she fought to protect him.
“People told me to get rid of him,” recalled Sayoe. “They told me I had done something wrong, that I had dabbled in witchcraft and that I should leave him by the side of the road to die. But I just couldn’t do it. He is my first child and I love him.”
Faced with taking care of Mohammed on her own, she took him to a local clinic in her home country of Sierra Leone. It was here that she met a doctor from Holland, Dr. Sandra, who spent 14 years with Mercy Ships as a child while her parents served as volunteers in the 1980s.
Dr. Sandra knew that the Africa Mercy was in the neighboring country of Guinea, so she arranged for Sayoe and Mohammed to journey to the ship, where she was confident they would be accepted for a surgery to correct his cleft lip and palate.
“It is a delight and a privilege to send children to Mercy Ships for surgery,” said Dr. Sandra. “Not only because the surgery itself is so life-changing, but also because I know the love and kindness shown to the mother and child during their stay brings restoration, hope, and healing to the entire family.”
Eight-month-old Mohammed and his mother traveled to the Africa Mercy with other mothers and babies referred by Dr. Sandra. It was here that Sayoe found friendships through a common bond. These brave mothers also loved their children despite facing abandonment by their communities.
“It has been nice to not be alone here,” said Sayoe. “There are others out there who have suffered like I have, and I have been able to make friends.”
Sayoe spent her time on the Africa Mercy learning to break through the guilt and shame that had been put on her. Thanks to her courage and love for her son — and thanks to the generosity of friends like YOU — her handsome baby boy was given a new chance at life!
Following a surgery to correct his cleft lip and palate, Mohammed beamed his beautiful new smile to his doting mother, and she thanked God for giving the gift of life to her little boy, not once, but twice.