Sassou’s Village

Documentary, Mercy Ships, Photojournalism, portrait, street photography

At the beginning of the week I went out to visit Agokpame, the village of the one of the patients that myself and Claire are following. Sassou was born with a growth behind his right eye that grew and grew over the last 13 years. He came to Mercy Ships after his teacher (among others) advised his father to take Sassou to a screening. His father, Efoe had already spent huge amounts of money on doctors previously, none of whom were able to help. The arrival of a ship with world-class surgeons who were happy to perform the operation for free can’t quite have seemed real.

The operation went successfully, but as expected he would never have been able to gain back vision in his left eye, so it was removed and sewn up. For Sassou it makes no difference to the life he is used to, except now he knows that it won’t take over the rest of his face. His father’s gratefulness was obvious when we went to see Sassou take his end of year exams (I was even allowed in to photograph him). What we didn’t expect was that everyone in the village knew of Mercy Ships removing the growth and Claire and I both received profuse thanks from those we were introduced to. That seemed a bit strange and we explained to the chief that we weren’t the doctors that performed the operation, but were in fact working in a department that gathers stories and photos such as Sassou’s so that people back in the Western World can see what the Mercy Ships do and donate money to keep the ‘dream’ alive.

These photos are a small sample from our very brief hour in the village and at Sassou’s school. If you’ve been to villages in Western Africa before you can note quite quickly that this is a relatively well-off one…

This is the photo taken before of Sassou at the Hospitality Centre (see previous post).

This is just by where I parked the Land Rover. The beach on the Benin/Togo border is just a few miles away.

Sassou is the fourth head in from the right. Click on it to see more clearly…

Children resting during the midday sun.

This is Sassou’s Grandma. The photos behind her are of her Father, Uncles and Grandfathers dating back several decades. These are the mark of a relatively well off family.

This scrawny tame Eagle was taking a rest on some machinery next door to the Chief’s house.

Some villagers were unaware that this child had club foot during the Africa Mercy’s screening several months ago and now it is unfortunately too late to operate on her. She will have to wait until the Africa Mercy returns to Togo in years to come. There was little we could do to help. We offered to take down her details and ask, but told her father and the chief that we were 95% sure that there was nothing we could do.

Children gather in front of the camera at Sassou’s school.

Sassou’s headteacher showed us around the new classrooms that have mainly been funded by Westerners, in this case a church from Germany.

Meza (our translator) and an outdoor blackboard with a basic diagram of the circulatory system.

On the other side of the classroom teachers gather around a black board with all the answers to Sassou’s test up on it so they can mark the papers as quickly as possible.

Sassou’s class. I offered to take a photograph of his class assuming they don’t usually get that opportunity. I’ll be sending a few prints back with Sassou when he visits the Africa Mercy for his final post-op.

Left to Right: Sassou’s Headteacher, Sassou and Efoe, his Father.


One thought on “Sassou’s Village

  1. What an amazing trip that was….the photos are fantastic!!! I’m so glad we are able to cover these unbelievable stories together 🙂

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