To hear a Christmas song for the first time

Born with hearing impairment, Sheirene, 16, had spent most of her younger life in silence. She communicated through sign language to forge connections with her parents, siblings, and more than a dozen cousins who would come play with her.

“We’ve noticed that something wasn’t right with her when she was two years old. She wouldn’t react to anything even if it was too noisy. She wouldn’t even wake up from these sounds. We were also concerned that she wouldn’t even talk at her age,” Anabel, Sheirene’s mother, says.

Sheirene has eight siblings, all are in school. The eldest is a college student taking up Fashion Design. Their father works as a family driver in Manila, earning P10,000 ($181) a month. He goes home on occasion to save transportation fares. Like most Filipino mothers, Annabel stays home to care for the children.

When the family became part of the Philippine government’s assistance program called 4Ps, Sheirene’s parents decided to take her to a doctor. Only then did they find out that Sheirene had a hearing problem and needed to have a hearing aid before she reached 7 years old. But the family couldn’t afford the expensive cost of buying the hearing aid which was more than Php100,000 ($1,800).

“My husband’s income isn’t enough. We borrow money especially when we have nothing. We try to find ways so we can have something on the table for the day,” Anabel shares.

In 2023, Sheirene became part of World Vision’s medical project funded by sponsors from Korea. When the family learned about it, they were ecstatic. The family had several consultations with a doctor in Manila. Soon, Sheirene was scheduled to receive her hearing aid. The young child was excited.

The doctor carefully placed the hearing aid behind Sheirene’s ears. Slowly, she felt a cascade of sensations and emotions she had never experienced before. Anabel’s emotions welled up as well as she saw her daughter’s responses to sound. She watched how Sheirene’s face lit up with an expression of sheer wonder and joy. Sheirene’s world, which had been silent, was now alive with the voices of people and the noises of things around her.

“She loves talking to us now. She develops self-confidence. She also started playing with other children,” Anabel says. “We would need to enroll her in speech therapy so she would learn how to talk.” Although Sheirene has a hearing aid, she would still converse in sign language.

“I’m very happy to have a hearing aid!” Sheirene shares in sign language.

Over the coming months, Sheirene eagerly explored her newfound sense of hearing. She reveled in the laughter of other children, and the gentle murmur of conversation among her siblings and parents. Each sound she hears is a revelation, a sort of puzzle piece in the world of sound.

Her siblings, cousins, and friends were also amazed by Sheirene’s remarkable transformation. She would converse with both sign language and sound. She could join some conversation now and laugh.

Anabel adds, “I am proud of her. She’s very studious despite her situation. My husband and me hope that she will one day finish her studies and become a nurse, her dream.”

For Sheirene, this Christmas will be her first Christmas when she can hear Christmas songs. “I am very happy! I would save some money so I could also buy Christmas gifts for my family and other people,” she says, her hands gesturing the words.

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