Elili came to Project Harar in 2015 with a very large problem: a huge tumour in her jaw, an ameloblastoma. Though ameloblastomas are benign, they can become very swollen and painful. Elili’s tumour was so large that surgeons in 2015 did not know how to deal with it. Sadly, they had to tell Elili to return home until they found a way it could be operated on.

Luckily, by 2016 Project Harar’s surgeons knew how best to deal with Elili’s tumour and asked her to return to the complex surgical mission to have it treated. It was not a moment too soon. Elili’s tumour had grown so large in the past year, and was now so swollen that Elili had only a tiny space in her mouth through which to push her food when she ate. She was also in a lot of pain. It was clear that the operation had to be now.

Elili is a brave girl. Despite her physical appearance she had persevered with her schooling, and was supported by her eight siblings. She knew she had to have the operation to regain her quality of life, and said, ‘I really want to get back to school – I love learning so much, and I miss it’.

The operation was a tough one. The tumour had to be removed from both her left and right jawbones, a procedure which took several hours and completely changed the structure of her face. Her mother waited anxiously for her to come out of surgery. When she finally did, her face broke out in a huge smile. The operation had been a success, and the tumour was gone.

Elili’s life was transformed. She could now open and close her jaw properly, no longer had to take food through a tiny hole in her mouth, and no longer had problems with breathing. But her happiest thought? ‘I can’t wait to go home and start school again. My friends will be amazed that my face has changed so much!’

Watch Elili's story here: