MARIETTA, Ga. — ONE DAY WITH OBEDIAH begins with a burst.
A ten-year-old boy glides into his Marietta kitchen with a camera that takes pictures and prints them instantly. He gestures to the TV news photographer currently shooting video of him.
“See?” Obediah says. “That’s a camera like yours! Ready, look … smile!”
He is at home, but he is not at home. Obediah is more than 5,000 miles away from home: a village in Liberia.
“I don’t think he understands that a lot of things are happening in his life,” says Marise Berthaud, his host mother in the States. “He’s very fortunate.”
ONE DAY WITH OBEDIAH continues with schoolwork, except when he breaks for a song.
“I gotta take my hope to the Old Town Road,” he sings. The Lil Nas X version says “take my horse,” but Obediah’s is different, and he repeats it for emphasis: “Take … my … hope …”
Obediah studies reading, math, and life skills every morning with Marise. He struggled in school in Liberia and at one point was pulled out.
“He had venus malformation,” Marise said, “which was a mass on the right side of his face. There is evidence of strokes, and the strokes are unfortunately in the area responsible for learning.”
Obediah said his issues at school extended beyond the classroom.
“If I was walking home, they’d be bullying me. And sometime I would just be sad by myself … and I wouldn’t know what to do.”
ONE DAY WITH OBEDIAH, on this day, includes a visit to Childspring International. The foundation provides care for children in developing countries. They brought Obediah to the States – first San Diego, then Atlanta. They hope soon to send him home.
“When we got him to the United States, it took a while to make a concrete diagnosis of what his mass was,” says Bradley Firchow of Childspring. “They were worried about doing surgery because the mass is so close to major blood vessels.”
Sclerotherapy treatments through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have brought down the mass. Obediah will undergo two more over the next two months.
“Living in America has provided him with a lot of luxury,” his host mother told 11Alive’s Matt Pearl. “He carries his water bottle around. [In Liberia] they don’t have water. His brother has to go get water someplace else and bring it to the house. And to me, that hurts … to see that some people have so much and some people have so little.”
ONE DAY WITH OBEDIAH means play with Obediah.
Hours after the Childspring meeting, he’s looping around his cul-de-sac on scooters and skates with several of his neighbors. That evening, he goes with his host mom to an African dance and drumming class.
“Every second of the day, he has to be busy,” Marise says.
His doctors are hopeful he can go home soon, possibly by the end of summer. He will fly 5,000 miles back to Liberia, buoyed by his extended stay in America.
“He’s gonna help,” says his host mom. “He’s gonna help his village in the future. He’s gonna be somebody.
“And he’s gonna sleep very well tonight.”
For more on Childspring International, check out their web site.
Matt Pearl’s Untold Atlanta series tells the stories we don’t hear often enough: the stories of our communities and the people who make them special. If you know of a great untold story to share, follow Matt on Facebook or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.