[Nils is currently in Sierra Leone until March]
Souleman is a boy of few words. His mother took him to the Mercy Ships medical screening in Lomè, Togo. Other children passed the time by playing and scrambling around. But Souleman solemnly waited in line for his turn.
According to his mother, Souleman was not always so quiet. He used to play with his siblings and neighborhood children. But then a growth – a keloid – formed on his left ear. A keloid is benign, non-contagious scar tissue that forms at the site of a healed injury. Sometimes it is accompanied by itchiness and pain. In severe cases, it can even affect the movement of the skin.
The other children made fun of Souleman, even nicknaming him “Big Ear.” The ridicule became so distressing that his parents took him out of school. And the hurt little boy sought refuge in silence and withdrawal.
Over the next week in recovery, Souleman’s personality began to emerge from its protective cocoon. He began to smile and play with the nurses and volunteers in the ward.
His father shared his enthusiasm, saying, ” I a m overjoyed about the surgery because we don’t have a lot of money for surger y. B ut now we have the grace of God , and we have Mercy Ships and all they have done for us.”
The boy of few words discovered that he had a great deal to say. Three weeks into his recovery, Souleman visited the ship for a check-up and bragged about all the people who can no longer call him Big Ear _. “At school and in the house they use_ d to call me ‘ Big Ear. ‘ Now everyone wants to come to see what happened to the Big Ear because it disappeared. I am no longer the Big Ear!” he triumphantly announced.
Now Souleman can live the life of a normal eight-year-old. He will begin school again this year in the second grade. Through the amazing care and love of volunteers onboard the Africa Mercy , Souleman has found his voice – and his life – again.
Written By: Joy Clary
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos By: Debra Bell