Derrick is a young man from Cameroon. He is only 21 years old, but he has already experienced enough suffering and hardship to last a lifetime. A few years ago he developed a tumor on his leg. His parents took him to see various doctors who were not able to help him, and they began getting desperate. They heard about a preacher in Nigeria who was performing miraculous healings, so they saved up as much money as they could (not much), and sent Derrick to Nigeria to find him.
He spent a lot of time in Nigeria, travelling from place to place, trying to find the preacher who could heal him, but it was difficult. Everywhere he went, he asked people where he could find the famous preacher, but no one could tell him. A number of people deliberately lead him astray; others wanted to help but were not able to. People took him to see other preachers, doctors, and even witch doctors, and all the while his leg was getting worse and his funds were running low. Finally, he found the preacher he had been searching for. But the preacher was not able to heal him.
After this great disappointment, Derrick managed to contact his parents in Cameroon. He wanted to come home, but they told him that they did not have the money to bring him home. He was on his own. He heard that he could get treatment for his leg in Niger, so he made his way across the border, and eventually ended up in Agadez, in the north of Niger. There he was taken in by an NGO that agreed to help him, but by this point they told him the only option for his leg was to have it amputated. At first he refused, but his leg continued to get worse. It was bleeding continually and got infected. When the infection began to spread, he finally agreed to let them amputate.
After recovering from his amputation, Derrick made his way down to Niamey. He thought that in the capital city he would be able to find work and a place to live. But he had no family or friends in the city, and ended up living on the street. Derrick had been to school for a few years as a child, so he was able to earn a bit of money by tutoring children in basic math, just enough to eat for the day. On top of all this, he developed a hernia, probably because of the strain of walking on crutches.
One day, Derrick heard about the CURE hospital, and came in to see if he could be treated for his hernia. Since the CURE hospital is a children’s hospital, which usually only treats certain conditions, Derrick’s case was brought before Leron Lehman, our executive director.
Leron explained to Derrick that his case was exceptional, and that usually we do not treat adults with hernias. But since he was obviously in great need, and since we could do the surgery, we would not turn him away. However, it would be great if he could contribute in some way towards his surgery, since we ask all of our patients to contribute something towards their treatment, even if it is a tiny amount.
“Have you seen many other children in your neighborhood with deformities?” Leron asked him. “Specifically with clubfoot, burns or cleft lip?”
“Yes,” Derrick said. “There are many.”
“Ok,” Leron said. “I will tell you what. We are going to help you with this surgery. But we would like you to help us as well. Ok?”
“Yes,” said Derrick. He said yes with his whole body.
“If you could go out and bring in some kids to the hospital, kids that need treatment, I will consider that as your payment.”
The CURE hospital in Niger is still new, and many people do not know about it yet, so finding patients is one of the challenges we face. Derrick agreed to help us try and find potential patients; we gave him some fliers for the hospital and sent him on his way. His surgery was scheduled for a few weeks later.
The very next day Derrick called me to let me know that he had already found 10 kids to bring to the hospital! He told me that he took pictures of them with his cell phone, and wanted to know if he could come in and show them to me. In the weeks that followed, he came back to the hospital many times, and each time he brought new patients, new contacts, and was full of publicity strategies and ideas for getting the word out. He asked if someone from the hospital could go to his neighborhood with him to speak with the children’s parents. Many of them did not believe him when he came alone, but if he showed up in a car from the hospital, with a hospital representative, then they would see that he was telling the truth.
The name of Cameroon’s football team is The Indomitable Lions, and they are popular even up here in Niger, because they are one of the African powerhouses. Aside from having an awesome name, they have also had World and Africa Cup success, and have Samuel Eto’o as their captain, one of Africa’s biggest football’s stars. Indomitable is an adjective which describes someone or something that cannot be subdued or overcome, and this describes Derrick really well. He has a drive to do something with his life, no matter what obstacles he is faced with.
It would have been easy for Derrick to ask for a handout. If anyone deserves one it is him; he has one leg, no money, no family or friends, and is living in a foreign country with a hernia. But he didn’t want a handout. He wanted a chance. It is true, he was asking for help, but when given a chance to help himself, and help others, he seized it and has pursued it with a level of energy and motivation that is inspiring.