A 17-year-old boy whose disability prevented him from lowering his arms below his head is enjoying regular use of his left arm after undergoing plastic surgery, the Daily Mirror reported.

“I was born with my elbows bent inwards and my wrists bent downwards. I couldn’t straighten my arms, but I learned how to cope,” Mamadou, of Guinea, West Africa, told the Daily Mirror.

Mamadou, who had been 15 at the time, has a rare condition that caused a deformity in his arms. The cause is unknown.

For years, Mamadou’s peers would taunt him and jeer at him. They nicknamed him “Devil Hands.”

It wasn’t until the boy’s parents sent him alone to beg on the streets— 300 miles from his hometown to the capital city, Conakry— that hope came to shore.

The Africa Mercy, a ship that the global charity Mercy Ships refers to as a “floating hospital,” docked one day he was begging. The global Christian organization travels by sea to port cities and provides free medical care to people in need.  

Without telling his parents, Mamadou approached the ship and told medics his story.

“I told the nurse I could do so much more than people thought,” Mamadou told the Daily Mirror.

Dr. Tertius Venter, a volunteer plastic surgeon for Mercy Ships, determined that Mamadou’s left arm could be repaired.

Mamadou had only four fingers on each hand, but Venter moved one of his fingers from his right arm to his left to create a thumb. While his right arm was able to be lowered, he now has just three fingers and the limb is still curved inward. His left arm can now be fully functioning.

“If they had tried to fix my right arm, it would have only have made things worse for me,” Mamadou said. “I was just happy they could do anything at all.”

Today, Mamadou is no longer begging but is working with his uncle in Conakry at a market stall.

He referred to Mercy Ships as his “guardian angels.”

“I don’t scare people away anymore,” he told the Daily Mirror. “I can support my family properly and without shame. One day, I will own my own stall and maybe have a family of my own.”

Click to learn more about Mercy Ships.

Click for more from the Daily Mirror.