Miracle child Tenneh Cole was just four years old when she was shot in the head by a Kalashnikov-wielding rebel as he stormed through her village in Sierra Leone.
Many of her family were killed and her home was devastated in the savage attack, but tiny Tenneh managed to escape with her life.
Incredibly, the rebel’s bullet became lodged in her brain and she lived for almost a year before the horrifying injury was discovered.
Today, she is a 25-year-old woman planning to open her own business as a seamstress.
‘Tenneh says she was so small when it all happened and has forgotten so much,’ said her aunt Mariama Mansaiy, 53, from their home in Freetown.
‘She speaks very little and can only sign a bit. But she says she remembers almost nothing of the horrors when she fled her village and came to England.’
As the rebels laid waste to her village, armed with assault rifles and machetes and killing and maiming at random, a young couple discovered the terrified and bleeding Tenneh.
They treated the wound on her head and covered it, believing she had been hit on the head with a rock, before taking her with them to the nation’s capital city, Freetown.
Once there, she spent the next 12 months at the Brickworks Refugee Camp as the wound healed over.
But it was only after she had been rescued by British charity Hope and Homes for Children that Tenneh began complaining of severe headaches and was taken for an x-ray at a local clinic.
‘The technician had been expecting to see some damage caused by the blow from the rock,’ said Caroline Cook, who runs the charity alongside her husband Mark.
‘He fell off his seat when he saw a heavy rift bullet sitting upright behind her right eye.’
It is believed the bullet had been fired into the air and penetrated the top of Tenneh’s young head as it fell, entering her front right brain lobe and settling in the optical cavity behind her eye.
Immediately Tenneh was airlifted out of war-torn Sierra Leone and flown to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for an emergency operation.
Doctors didn’t expect the tiny, wounded child to survive the traumatic surgical procedure.
But now, 20 years later, Tenneh has just finished her tailor training at a technical college near her home and hopes to launch her own business as a seamstress with the help of UK charity Street Child.
‘I have helped keep her away from dangers over the years as much as possible,’ continued her aunt Mariama.
‘There was the war, then Ebola and also so many awful things that can happen to young women like her.
‘We go to the local Catholic church and she has her prayers and the Bible. So I do my best to keep her on the straight road amid so much poverty here and desperation.
‘She loves films and is always wanted to go to friends’ houses because we have no TV or DVD player.
‘But I can’t let her out on her own in the dark. It’s just not safe. These streets can be dangerous and so many young girls and women fall by the wayside.
‘She is a very quiet girl but has a strong will. She likes to read science text books, eat rice with cassava and help me in the home with cooking and cleaning.
‘She is a good, good girl. She is our miracle of hope.’
As a symbol of her miraculous survival, Tenneh has kept the blue headscarf that she was wearing when she was shot – complete with jagged bullet hole.
But the bullet didn’t leave Tenneh entirely unharmed, and she suffers from profound deafness as well as being unable to talk fluently and being blind in her right eye.
Tenneh is still being supported by Street Child, which campaigns to help girls and young women remain in education despite the pressures of Ebola, poverty, teenage pregnancy, gender discrimination and prostitution.