Although Anabelle, a girl from the Phillipnes, is only seven, she has seen some of darker corners of the world.
Just two years ago, she was held captive by a drug gang. They used her like a slave, and forced her to beg for money on the streets. She was sold into this life by her mother. Anabelle has Crouzon syndrome, and her mother didn’t know how to tackle that while already raising six children.
Crouzon syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes craniofacial bones to fuse prematurely. This creates a distinct appearance, including wide eyes, a small nose, dental problems, hearing loss, and a cleft pallet. Patients with this condition often need surgery in order to give their brain space to grow. To learn more about this rare condition, click here.
The gang leveraged Anabelle’s appearance to their advantage by forcing her to ask for money. She stood with a woman who was forced act as if she was her mother– both Anabelle and the woman were beaten before they were sent out. The gang moved the pair between different cities, in order to throw off the police.
One day, a stranger noticed there was something wrong about the situation. He rescued her from the gang, and soon after, Anabelle caught the attention of, Gonzalo Erize from the Kalipay Negrense Foundation. Erize became her advocate, and accompanied her through the different rounds of care treatment she went through once found. She saw various pediatricians, dentists, therapists, and neurologists. She needed surgery immediately to alleviate the symptoms of Crouzon syndrome, and to give her brain space to grow. Erize accompanied her to the surgery, which was a success.
Anabelle is seven now. The damage is deep– she reportedly wakes up from nightmares, screaming. Still, she is learning to heal, to laugh, and to enjoy the childhood that was nearly stolen from her.
To read more about this story on Opposing Views, click here.