The parents of a little girl who was burned in a fire as a baby have penned a heartbreaking open letter, calling out adults who stare at her and treat her differently because of her injuries.
Irish couple Liam and Sinead Soffe were living in Qatar in 2014 when a fire broke out in their house.
Having put six-month-old baby Elizabeth down for a nap, Sinead heard screaming from her little girl’s room, running upstairs to find her ablaze in her cot.
Elizabeth suffered serious burns all over her body and lost half of her fingers on both hands and one of her ears.
After the fire, Liam, Sinead, Elizabeth and her siblings Danny, 11, Amelia, nine, and William, seven, moved to Birmingham to be close to the specialist hospital where Elizabeth was treated.
Five years on, the family are still living in the city, but have to endure scathing glares and cruel comments from grown adults about Elizabeth’s appearance every day.
Penning an open letter to the strangers who treat their little girl differently, the couple slammed those who should be old enough to know better.
The heartfelt letter, shared by UK charity Changing Faces, reads: ‘To all those who make out daughter’s life more difficult than it should be. ‘To the parent who tried to remove my daughter from their child’s swimming lessons. To the mum who told me that children who look like my daughter would be locked away in her country.
‘To the parents who watched their children refuse to hold my daughter’s hand and failed to intervene. To all the adults who stare, double take, gawp day in, day out at our precious girl.
The honest words continue to describe how shop assistants have even refused to serve the family because of Elizabeth’s ‘scary’ scars.
‘Why would an adult say “at least she won’t have to wear a Halloween mask” or refuse to serve us at a supermarket till because she looked ‘scary’? Why would any adult think this is an acceptable way to behave?
‘The worst part is that my daughter will have to deal with this her whole life, every single day, in every room that she walks into. Perhaps when she is older the blatant and rude comments will cease, but the stares, double takes, pointing and whispers never will.’
Liam and Sinead go on to confess they are worried for how their daughter will react to the taunts and stares when she grows old enough to notice them, adding: ‘I fool myself into thinking that she doesn’t notice that she is too young to realise that she is different and because she is only five, it doesn’t matter to her. But this pretence will not last long. She will notice, she will be affected by it and I am sure that the sheer weight of it will wear her down.
‘One day our daughter will go out into the world by herself and I will not be able to shield her from the realities of the world and from the people who think that her feelings don’t matter.
‘I learned early on that she will learn her reaction from me. If I challenge every person who points or whispers or grimaces, then she will. If I get angry or upset or aggressive, then so will she. And that is not the person I want her to be.’