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The girl who smiled from the inside out

Born with a cleft lip, the face of the little girl born to Fatumata was so repugnant and frightening to the people in her village in Guinea where she was born that even her father refused to give her a name.

Fatumata, remembers these early days all too well. „Ousaman, my husband, had a stone heart that made me very unhappy. I knew God loved our daughter, so why didn’t he?“ Fatumata made a painful decision. If there would not be a traditional baby naming ceremony, she would hold her own one. „It was difficult to go against my husband, but our daughter was a human being, and I loved her. No matter her condition, she would have a name.“ Fatumata prayed and chose the name „Hadiatou,“ which means well-loved. She hoped that the love in this name would one day bring Hadiatou the healing she needed.

Despite her cleft, Hadiatou was a happy child. Fatumata recalls, „Hadiatou’s brothers always thought Hadiatou was so courageous. They played with her and sang songs to help her go to sleep.“

Slowly even Ousaman’s heart softened. According to Fatumata, „There was something in his daughter’s courage that made Ousaman feel differently. Instead of accepting insults, he began to speak up for her.“

While she prayed for God to help Hadiatou, Fatumata admits she was doubtful. „I did not know what caused Hadiatou’s cleft lip. No one in the village had a condition like this.“

When Hadiatou was seventeen, Samba, a fine young farmer fell head over heels in love with her. Samba was drawn to Hadiatou’s kindness and sense of humor. He saw great beauty in her eyes. Fatumata felt a stirring of hope for her daughter.

When Hadiatou and Samba were blessed with a chubby baby boy, they talked about having a special baby naming ceremony - to make up for what Hadiatou missed. But suddenly, plans for the big day were put on joyful hold. Samba’s cousin, three villages away, confided to Samba th