It had been eight years since 30-year-old Sylvester first saw Charity, with a shawl strategically draped across her face in an effort to hide the tumour growing down from her mouth.
At the time, Sylvester was in the village, located in remote Ghana, to work on a humanitarian construction project, but his heart immediately went out to her. Unfortunately, when he offered to bring Charity to a hospital for surgery, her family refused, deciding to use herbal medicines to help heal her.
In 2018, seven years after first seeing Charity, Sylvester returned to her village. The years had left their mark —Charity’s tumour had grown and was now greater than the size of her head. When he asked her if she was willing to be helped, Charity decided to accept. Sylvester jumped into action, contacting the Mercy Ships surgical and screening staff in order to arrange for Charity to be brought to the Africa Mercy in Conakry, Guinea.
He was no stranger to the ship, having coordinated for several patients to come for surgery during its 2016 field service in Benin through his organisation, Volunteers for Amelioration of Rural Areas (VARAS) — an NGO that seeks to help bridge the development gap between rural and urban communities.
This time, Sylvester decided he wouldn’t just arrange for Charity’s voyage, but would make the journey by her side, with his NGO partially funding the costs of her paperwork needed to fly.
“I came with Charity because she’s been laughed at, and people attach superstitions to her,” Sylvester said. “She’s always indoors and told to cover herself. She has had to eat in a separate room from everybody else. I needed to be here with her.
The day of her operation, they were both filled with nerves, but soon after a successful surgery, Charity was strong enough to get up and walk around the wards. Sylvester himself couldn’t stand
up anymore at the sight, saying, “I was crying because of the shock of seeing her tumour gone.”
Despite the enormity of her tumour, Charity’s recovery was quick and uncomplicated, a blessing they both thanked God for.
“I’m looking forward to being welcomed back. The people who had negative thoughts about me will be surprised — they will see that there’s nothing wrong with me, that it’s all been taken away,”
Charity said before leaving the ship. “I am well.”
Charity returned to the village where her husband and five children were, excited to show them her transformation.
Thanks to the generosity of Sylvester, their relationship won’t end when she’s discharged, as VARAS aims to make her transition home smoother by continuing their support. As well as providing capital for her to expand her farmland, they also hope to train her under their female empowerment
project to give her further options to earn an income.
“This is our story,” Sylvester said. “If we’re not helping people like Charity, there’s no reason for us to exist.” Both Charity and Sylvester are deeply aware that these plans are for a future that once seemed dark, but is now open to possibility again — and there’s so much joy in that realisation.
“The effect of an untreated tumour in her case would be death. Now, her life is saved,” he said. “We go out and sit and eat among the people. She can rejoin her community. We’re thankful to Mercy Ships for this miracle.”