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Local volunteer travels overseas to help children


Photo Courtesy of Sherry Cannal

Marysville volunteer Sherry Cannal, center, with children from a Casa Guatemala orphanage after a day of donating fruits and vegetables along with face painting and a magic show earlier this November.

One local Marysville woman has taken more than 10 trips over the last 15 years to help brighten the lives of children in third-world countries.

Sherry Cannal went on her most recent trip this November, when she went to Guatemala to help connect with kids waiting for surgery.

"Could you imagine going into surgery with American doctors and not being sure what they're doing to you," said Cannal.

"These people wait six to 12 hours to see a doctor, so I interact with them so kids can see me as a safe harbor," she said.

Cannal, who owns a local children's entertainment business, makes balloon animals, plays games or just helps the kids laugh.

"I am keeping them calm and not so anxious about having surgery," she said. "Laughter, to me, is a universal language," she said.

She remembers one patient who was a 5-year-old girl who was getting a tumor removed from her neck.

"When she woke up from anesthesia she was really angry, but because she interacted with me before, I was able to take my mask off and say 'Alicia, I'm here, you're good,' and she heard my voice and calmed right down," said Cannal.

Cannal herself is a survivor of brain cancer and has her own scars which help show the kids that surgery will be okay.

She volunteers with other overseas organizations as well, such as "Caring Clowns International" which visits orphanages and third-world kids to help them laugh.

About 15 years ago Cannal was looking into options of going to Vietnam, where she was born and moved away from as a child.

She found "Caring Clowns International" and decided to sign up.

"When I went, I went with complete strangers that I had just met at the airport," she said.

Even though she moved as a young child, she said being back in Vietnam brought back many memories.

"It was toys I played with when I was little, still in the store, places that we went to where I had pictures of my mom at 18," she said. "Or being able to eat the same food again and experience the same aroma, it was rewarding and bittersweet I guess," she said.

Through her years of volunteering, she said she has learned to appreciate the things Americans have.

"We take medical so much for granted here," said Cannal, adding, "generic Tylenol is something they don't even have access to."

She recalls one kid who was having an extra digit removed from his foot, however "he didn't have money to buy ice or crutches," so after surgery he went to the next floor to rest by hopping.

Even things like school, which costs about $10 to pay for per month in Guatemala according to Cannal, can be out of reach for families.

Cannal recalls a patient who had a tumor removed at age 9 and returned to visit when she was 12.

"We learned her parents were going to not let her go to school anymore," because they could no longer afford it, said Cannal.

Instead Cannal decided to talk with her volunteer organization and they sponsored the child for her school.

"She just graduated in November, with honors, and now she's trying to apply to the University of Guatemala, and she was inspired to become a doctor," said Cannal.

Cannal wanted to encourage people to give as part of this holiday season.

"You make a big difference in someone's life, even with very small monetary contributions, not even just third-world countries, but here in the United States," she said.


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