Monrovia – Six years old Gifty was born with cliff lip, palate and also a spilt on the face; with this condition, Gifty and her mother became the subject of discussion in their community.
“When I get in car and the car is not filled, everybody selling in Redlight will come around the car, they will come to be looking at her; but now I tell God ‘Thank you’,” Gifty’s mother Joyce Tomkallie said.
Little Gifty has never been to school and has been abandoned by her father.
She’s yet to have a regular childhood experience like playing with friends, but in spite of all that, Gifty seems to be an active kid.
“From the time I gave birth to her, her father came and saw her and he told me to leave her there."
"From that day, I have never seen him. My mother and I have been struggling with this girl,” Tomkollie said.
Narrating her story, Tonkollie said life has been tough since she gave birth to Gifty. Some family and friends, according to her, advised her to neglect the child.
“With her condition I used to shed tears. If you are pregnant, you don’t know what you are carrying, nobody wants to born bad or ugly child. "
"People went as far as saying that I born ‘gina’ (gene),” Tomkollie said
“When I gave birth, everybody from village came to see the child,” she lamented.
Despite pressure from family and friends, Tomkollie was bent on her decision not to abandon her first child, adding that the nurses also played a major by giving her word of encouragement.
She the nurses played a major role in encouraging her to keep the child.
“I was in 12th grade about to graduate when I got pregnant – Gifty is my first child – the father and even family told me to leave her in the hospital asking me what I’m doing with her."
"I said she’s my first and I’m not going to leave her. From that time up to now, life has not been easy I’ve been from church to church with her."
"When I gave birth to her, the nurses encouraged me that there would be solution to my daughter’s problem one day,” she said.
On Tuesday, Gifty came back home from Benin after undergoing four surgeries carried out by Mercy Ship - though she doesn’t have a normal look yet, she’s far way better than her previous look.
Gifty’s mother thanked Samarian Purse for the supportive role they are playing in getting her daughter to normality.
“It has not been easy, but I thank God for Samaritan’s Purse for sending us to Benin and now her surgeries have been done.
They told me that a surgical team can come to Liberia, one day they will fix her and I was encouraged to take care of her,” Tomkollie said.
Tomkollie said during her stay in Benin, she saw people with different kinds of deformities which gave her hope that all was not lost.
“I saw different different cases, people growth covering their eyes, people with legs problem, we were all there, I was even there talking to some of them,” Tomkollie said.
“I just came yesterday I live in Gbarnga, everybody told me thank you for her, even up till this morning people telling me thank you for taking care of her, my mother told me thank you.”
Gifty Mother urged other parents who have kids with similar problem not to turn their back on their child.
“I want to tell mothers in similar condition not to listen to people but keep praying and pushing forward for solution,” she said.
Samaritan Purse Assistant Protection Sector Manager Daniela Spevak recalled when Gifty and her mother came for the cliff lip and palate surgery, noting that they knew it wasn’t possible for the surgery to be done in Liberia.
“Before the cliff lip, we knew we wouldn’t be able to do it. We were told that we can’t do it here, so we started looking for other options for Gifty’s surgery,” Spevak said.
Spevak continued: “I began communication with Mercy Ship; Mercy Ship couldn’t promise anything because they haven’t seen her yet."
"When they went Benin, Joyce called that they did the first examination and they (Mercy Ship) said they were going to do the surgery.”
Spevak said they were relieved when they heard that operation was possible.
Samaritan Purse Assistant Protection Sector Manager said that there would be another surgery, adding that she is too young to go through the next immediately.
“Well we don’t have specifics yet, she’s too young to go through the next surgery.
It takes time -- potentially next year. Joyce was telling me that next year they will be closer to Liberia, if they are, we will try to get Gifty back up there again for the next surgery,” Spevak said.
Samaritan’s Purse Deputy Country Director- Liberia Joni Byker said her organization was thankful for the transformation that had taken place with Gifty.
“We are so thankful for the transformation that has taken place with Gifty, and [we] are excited for her next surgery next year to form her nose,” Byker said.
Samaritan’s Purse Deputy Country Director thanked the Ministry of Health, Immigration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ELWA Hospital and Mercy for making surgery possible.
Byker added there will be another cliff lip and palate surgery program in December.
“We will be doing another cliff lip program from December 1-10.
It is going to be the same routine; we will use our aviation services to get people from remote places, they contact the county health team, they will put out a list from their county and we will collaborate with them,” Byker said.
Byker added that it is Samaritan Purse’s hope that the program is done routinely every year.
“We pray and hope that it is a routine thing, it has been operating in South Sudan for many years, this is the first year in Liberia,” Byker added.
Samaritan Purse’s Deputy Country Director praised and thanked doctors and nurses who volunteered their services by coming to Liberia to restore lost hope.
“It a team of dedicated doctor and nurses who are willing to volunteer their time to come to Liberia to do this project. "
"You know these doctors and nurses are using their vacation time to come and work long hours and willing to change the life of these individuals,”Byker said.