Cheryl French (pictured above with our beloved Mrs. Von KR) is a Coral Tree MVP. Originally from Iloilo — said to be the heart of the Philippines as it’s located in the center of the archipelago’s 7,100 islands — when I think of Cheryl, I think of the heart of Coral Tree.
Cheryl is an example of how energy and enthusiasm — and a compassionate heart — can transform situations, experiences, relationships, even distance.
Despite living some 7,000+ miles away from her two daughters (the youngest is 15; and the eldest is 21 and studying nursing) and her mother (who Cheryl jokes is her daughers’ “overseer”), Cheryl not only provides for her family financially, including live-in nannies, but is incredibly involved in all three of their lives and care. She is in touch with them daily via phone, video and messenger.
She also helps supports her extended family. Cheryl is an example of if there’s a will, there’s a way; and in many ways Cheryl’s family is probably more connected than many families that live under the same roof! In our culture, we are so wrapped up in thinking of “me” and “mine,” (I see this in myself every day); for me Cheryl is an example of the power of thinking “we” and “ours.”
Cheryl has been working as a caregiver here in the US for 20 years, and for Coral Tree since 2013. My dad remembers meeting her for the first time, when she came for an interview. “This tiny person came in and she just took over!” he laughed. “Cheryl is extremely efficient and punctual. She runs things really well. Families really appreciate that — she’s like the CEO of any job she does. It can be really helpful to have someone in charge like that.
“These nine years we’ve known her,” he added, “she’s always sending money home for all kinds of things. She does a lot for her mother. And I think has even paid caregivers to go the hospital for various family members. She’s always sending gifts back to her kids and nephews and nieces.”
Cheryl is a natural leader and protector of her clients. She is also incredibly loving and has a wonderful sense of humor. She knows how to make her clients laugh and lighten stressful times or situations. She cared for a family friend of ours, Barbara, who lived down the street from us, for seven years.
Family is very important to Cheryl. She looked after for her father before he passed away; and even though her mother is home in Iloilo City, Cheryl oversees all of her medical care from here in the US.
Because of the pandemic she hasn’t been able to travel home for a couple of years — usually she goes to Iloilo at least once a year to organize doctors’ appointments, check-ups and surgeries for mom. (Her mom is a colon cancer survivor.)
Before moving to the US, Cheryl studied to be a nurse in the Philippines and worked in a hospital. But when her father had an aortic aneurysm in his 70s, she stopped nursing school completely to care for him, including traveling to Manilla to the heart center there so that he could have various surgeries including a bypass.
“There were no caregivers at that time in the Philippines!” she jokes.
He sadly only lived one more year after the aneurysm, passing away in 1996. Because Cheryl only met her father when she was in high school (he and her mother were separated), she only knew him for 11 years. But she’s so grateful that she got to have those 11 years of memories with him, and especially to help care for him in the final years of his life. Cheryl says when the time comes, she will return to the Philippines so that she can care for her mother in the same way.
When Cheryl first came to the US it was hard for her to see the isolation so many of our elders experience here. One of the things that makes her happiest, she says, is seeing children who love their parents, who support and take good care of them.
Compassion is the main quality you need in order to be a good caregiver, Cheryl says. She credits growing up within Filipino familial culture with giving her that compassionate foundation — putting others needs before one’s own. Cheryl, like so many Filipinos, grew up in a huge extended family and she’s really close with all of her relatives.
Cheryl also loves animals and is something of the St. Francis of Felines — she currently cares for FIVE rescue kittens! Yet, again, an example of how with joyful enthusiasm and a big heart, you can do so much and care for so many.
Cheryl is rigorous in her care of her clients and she expects a high quality of care and commitment from her fellow caregivers. She also says it’s really important that for caregivers, their heart needs to be in taking care of the client — not just doing a job.
“You need to be sensitive and take care of the client like they’re your family,” Cheryl says. It’s really important to help ease their suffering.
She’s a good manager and is always there for her client and the team of caregivers working with her — even on her days off. There’s no separation between Cheryl and her work. Caregiving isn’t an occupation for her — it’s a calling to care for others, and she takes that responsibility really seriously. Even when she was pregnant, she only stopped working one week before her first daughter was due!
“Cheryl’s creative in her care,” my mom says. “She looks for every way to possibly help someone and incorporates that into her plan of care. She doesn’t look at people in a one- dimensional way. She looks at the whole person, evaluates what they need or how they might be helped. She’s pro-active with confidence in her experience; she’s organized and not about to miss a step.”
Cheryl says the most rewarding part of the job is the love and appreciation she receives back from her clients, and from their children. That gratitude, she says, is the ultimate gift. She loves the feeling of having done a good job for others.
“I’m really happy doing what I’m doing,” Cheryl says. She loves caregiving —and prefers working as a caregiver to the more clinical work she did back home in the hospital. She wouldn’t change anything about her career these past 20 years.
“Cheryl’s a leader, thorough, loving, and energetic,” says Cassidy. “She can do everything and handle anything.”