Although she's already in Grade 3, she stands only as tall as a toddler. Mangled like the thick branches of an oak tree, her legs awkwardly support her lopsided walk. Her left leg is twisted outward to reveal a deformed foot. Her right leg is a stump with a thin ankle underneath.
To what can we blame Cherry's condition? The Chavacanos call it "pi-ang", referring to the unfortunate incidence of polio.
Polio in the States, or in any first-world country is welcomed with merely a sigh. With surgery, therapy, and numerous facilities and privileges for the disabled, any boy or girl like Cherry there would find their special needs taken care of.
But here in the Philippines, it's a different story. Polio is welcomed with a flood of tears and heartache. Where does Cherry sit in the public school classroom? What means of transportation can she afford to comfortably take her to places? How can she keep up in a country of long lines and lost pedestrian lanes? What treatment can we mention when her parents earn only from a humble carinderia in the outskirts of town?
But so far, what she lacks in body or wealth, she makes up for in heart.
Everyday, she walks 3 kilometers to school and then back, just to be able to attend class. She says she does this because she dreams of becoming an accountant someday.
On some days, she even hikes an extra kilometer just to borrow books from the KRIS Library. She is spellbound with our fairy tale books there. Her favorites are Snow White and Cinderella.
However, in all honesty, I want to tell Cherry something she doesn't know: she puts these fairy tale princesses to shame with her courage to fight adversity.
Her steps may be awkward, but I have no doubt that she will go far. She puts the cherry of hope on top of the biggest of obstacles.
We in KRIS Library want to help her. But we need your help too, in any way -- financial, educational, medical, etc. If you know of any way we could lend a hand, please don't hesitate to contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org or 09995609435.