Friday, March 11, 2011

Revisiting Joseph Fofanah

Looking very sharp in his Boy Scout uniform, nine-year-old Joseph Fofanah stepped up to accept his country's flag. Then he marched crisply to place it in the stand, saluted, and retreated smartly. It was appropriate that this young man participated in the ceremony to welcome the arrival of the Africa Mercy in Sierra Leone.

Former patient Joseph Fofanah presents the flag at arrival ceremonies in Sierra Leone.

Mercy Ships played a very important role in Joseph's life. He was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip. “He was having a problem,” said his mother, Isatu. “Any liquid we fed him would come back out his nose.”

This serious birth defect negatively impacts the lives of many African children. Fortunately, Isatu realized that her son needed a medical procedure to repair the cleft. However, the cost of the surgery was more than she and her husband could afford. “But the pastor and the doctor who delivered Joseph told me not to worry,” said Isatu. “A Mercy Ship is just on the way.”

Joseph had his first surgery in 2002, when he was almost four month s old, and he received a second surgery the following year. He has no memory of his problem or of his Mercy Ships experiences, but the success of these procedures is evident in his brilliant smile.

Dr. Gary Parker greets Joseph Fofanah, one of his former patients, when he returned to participate in arrival ceremonies at Sierra Leone.

Today, Joseph is a happy, active fourth-grader. His favorite subject is mathematics, which may have something to do with his ambition to be a banker one day. An avid football (soccer) enthusiast, he is the goalie on his school team, and enjoys playing w ith his younger brother, Joshua.

Scouting is very popular in Sierra Leone, and Joseph is a five-year member of Boy Scout Team 3. “I really love to march,”he says, and he's looking forward to camping with his troop.

When asked what he thought about being onboard the Africa Mercy , he grinned and exclaimed, “I'm excited, and I really want to stay here!”

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina

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