Every child brought into this world is a blessing and one of a kind; Mirza reminds us of that every day. Mirza is a unique young woman for myriad reasons, only one of which is the fact that she was born with an extremely rare congenital disorder known as Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome and is one of fewer than 200 people living with this condition worldwide.
She was born premature and arrived with a long list of complications. Doctors operated almost immediately on her severe cataracts and sent her to exam after exam because they weren't able to determine her condition. Over the next few years her health problems persisted and it became increasingly apparent that physically she was not developing like other children. She experienced severe headaches and chest pains, her vision loss persisted, her hair was not growing and neither was she. The doctors believed she had another rare condition called Progeria, in which the symptoms resemble an accelerated aging process. It wasn´t until two years ago when Mirza joined us at Centro Scheel and underwent further examination that she was finally diagnosed with Hallermann-Streiff.
When she was a baby, the doctors told Mirza´s parents they didn't think she wouldn't live to celebrate her 12th birthday. Mirza is now 21 years old, 4 feet 2 inches tall, and full of energy, talent, and ambition. Growing up has not been easy; she was born into a very poor family in a dangerous neighborhood, her mother abandoned her when she was 12, and due to the complications of her condition and her appearance, leading a so-called normal life has been a challenge. Children at her previous schools didn't understand why she was different and often ridiculed her; people in the community and on the street still say hurtful things and make fun of her appearance. Her vision is continually deteriorating and for this reason her case was brought to the administrators at Centro Scheel two years ago. She was enrolled in the school and is now in the 8th grade.
In Centro Scheel, Mirza says she finally feels comfortable and safe. It took time to get past her defenses, but she eventually felt comfortable enough to answer the questions from her curious classmates and share with them the details of her condition. She´s not very interested in mathematics and she finds English class really hard, but she loves her art and drawing courses. She makes beautiful art and specially hand-crafted figurines and sells them in her spare time in order to help the family out financially as much as she can.
Mirza has goals and says she will never stop dreaming. One day, she would like to meet her all-time favorite artist, Justin Bieber. She also wants to carry on with her studies to one day be a psychologist. Mirza´s biggest dream however, is to start her own project to educate people about Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome and other conditions like it. She wants to start in Centro Scheel, take her message into the community and throughout Guatemala, and maybe even someday around the world. Mirza believes that with more education and a greater understanding that one day we will respect one another and all of the qualities that make each and every one of us unique.
Centro Scheel is able to continue its work because of the donations we receive from around the world. With your help, Mirza and more than 150 other students at Centro Scheel are in school and pursuing their dreams. Every donation you make opens the door to a brighter future for each and every one of these kids and for Guatemala.
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