Kerosene burns harm young lives

SonnyBoy Gianan — Dugui San Vicente, Catanduanes Island, Philippines

Fourteen years ago, on the night of Christmas eve, Moreto Gianan returned from the market to find 7-year-old SonnyBoy on his back, third degree burns covering his body. SonnyBoy had discovered the family’s kerosene supply, and lit it on fire.

Lacking a clinic within the village, Moreto and his brother laid SonnyBoy on a hammock, and carried the youngster to Virac city, a 3-hour trek through the night. SonnyBoy was in luck. On the tiny island of Cataduanes, Virac hospital had just received its first ever general surgeon.
Although SonnyBoy survived his accident, Dr. Vietrez Abellia has treated many kerosene burn victims since starting her career in Cataduanes, and not all have survived. About SonnyBoy, she recalls “he couldn’t eat and he was so thin, I thought he would die.” He stayed under her care, with father by his side, for 5 full months.

As an adult, when asked to see his burns, SonnyBoy smiles sheepishly as he lifts the corner of his t-shirt, watching your face carefully to see your reaction. As a child, he was too ashamed of his scars to attend school, but as an adult, he has returned to get his education. So far, he has completed through the 3rd grade, and looks forward to using his solar lamp for future studies. He finds comfort in this light – his children won’t face the risk of kerosene accidents, as he did when he nearly lost his life.

One Million Lights brought Dr. Abellia with us to donate lights in Dugui San Vicente, where she delighted to see SonnyBoy again for the first time. “I’m so happy he’s alive.”