Uncle’s Dying Legacy Realised In Five-Year-Old’s Smile

Dakar – An uncle’s dying wish has been granted with his niece receiving transformative surgery from a medical charity.

When Awa was born in a remote village in southern Senegal with a cleft lip and palate, her mother Rougui was scared about her future.

Awa, age 5, maxillofacial patient, before admission.

But Rougui’s supportive brother Woury invited his sister and her family to stay with him during this difficult time and sought a way to find his niece healing.

As she got older, Awa encountered the hardship of growing up with the birth defect in her village.

Rougui said: “People in my village did not cast her out, but they laughed at her, and she was ashamed. They would say ‘look at how your mouth and lip are’, which made her embarrassed. She used to hide her mouth with her hand.”

Her uncle Woury became even more determined to find help for her.

One day Woury was overjoyed when he heard that international charity Mercy Ships was bringing a hospital ship to the port of Dakar to provide free surgeries and medical training.

He told Rougui: “Run, run, run to Dakar! These people will help her and fix her smile. People will not even recognise Awa after!”  

But soon after the pandemic began, meaning surgeries could not go ahead as planned. 

Her uncle kept in touch with Mercy Ships determined to ensure Awa had surgery and encourage Rougui to not give up hope for her healing.

In an unexpected tragedy, Woury passed away just a few months before Mercy Ships returned to Senegal in early 2022.

But Rougui decided to honour her brother’s last wish and she and Awa, now five, made the long journey to the Africa Mercy, where Woury’s dream was finally realised and Awa received successful surgery.

She said: “On the day of our discharge from the Africa Mercy, I thought of many things. 

“The last time Awa and I left a hospital, it was the day she was born, and she had a cleft-lip. 

“Everything is different now. She is healed, we have been well cared for, and we get to go home together. It is a great joy, this day!”

Soon they made the long journey back home, where Awa’s father was awaiting them with a big smile.

Upon seeing his daughter, tears sprang to his eyes and he said a word of thanks for his brother-in-law.

He said: “If her uncle Woury would have been alive and he had seen her now, he would have been so happy. He would say that God did what he had always hoped for. And he would spend the rest of the day playing with Awa.”

About Mercy Ships:

Global health for the last two decades has focused on individual diseases, while surgical care in low-resource countries has not received the attention it needs. 

Lack of surgical care resulted in almost 17 million deaths annually.

Mercy Ships (www.MercyShips.org) is an international faith-based organization that operates hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, medical capacity building, and health system strengthening to those with little access to safe surgical care. 

Since 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 55 countries, with the last three decades focused entirely on partnering with African nations. 

Each year, volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy™. 

Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses, health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to the cause. Mercy Ships has offices in 16 countries and an Africa Bureau. 

For more information, visit MercyShips.org and follow us @ MercyShips on social media.