A severely disabled 5-year-old girl was saved by a kindhearted stranger after she was sold to a drug-running gang and made to beg for money.
The girl, identified only as Anabelle, was diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes premature fusion of skull bones and leads to malformations of the face, according to Metro.
Anabelle's mother could not afford to take care of her and her six siblings, so she sold the 5-year-old to a gang.
The gang would make her beg on the street for money. They would regularly beat her with a stick to make her cry, hoping it would elicit sympathy from passersby.
Anabelle was paired with a woman who pretended to be her mother. The two would move between cities to avoid being caught by the police.
The girl was eventually rescued by the Kalipay Negrense Foundation, a nonprofit that works to help disadvantaged children. Gonzalo Erize, who works with the foundation, was particularly touched by Annabelle's story and was by her side every step of the way while she received medical and psychiatric help.
"The people in charge of her care told me that she woke up at night, shouting from the nightmares from the past," he said. "But I was there ready to give Anabelle the opportunity of a better life, where she could play without pain and live worthily."
Crouzon syndrome, or congenital craniofacial dysostosis, is a rare genetic condition that leaves those affected with prominent, bulging eyes. While the disorder does not affect intelligence, it does cause severe deformities, including vision problems and an underdeveloped upper jaw, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The syndrome occurs in 16 in every 1 million newborns.
The syndrome meant Anabelle could not close her eyes to sleep, and she was constantly exhausted.
Anabelle underwent urgent skull surgery after her rescue in the Philippines, which is where she spent her life moving around the country as a beggar. Erize traveled from his home in Argentina to take care of her as she recovered.
"I stood by her during the whole process. It was a complicated process, a very delicate situation, in which the passing of time was a constant threat," said Erize.
He says the effort was worth it because the surgery means Anabelle's brain can now grow normally.
"It was completely cured and today she knows the meaning of enjoying, of having fun, of living."