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I WAS VERY COMFORTABLE IN MY SHELL



"You can never discover what you are capable of until you dare to try"



I lost my ability to decipher sounds before I could complete my primary education. This did not by any means add any bonus points to my life as I was already battling with Sickle Cell Anemia. It is still a mystery how this came about and the only plausible conclusion was that it may have been as a result of side effects from the numerous medications I have taken in this journey called life. On the one hand, I was seen as a ‘half die’ and on the other hand, I was ‘mumu’ a slang used often derogatory, to refer to deaf and hearing impaired people in my community.



Life was certainly a roller coaster and as I trudged towards this ride, I had to encounter many thorns. Due to this, I found myself developing a comfortable shell I could withdraw to time and again.



I created my own universe, becoming so comfortable in my shell that I was wont to break it. From this shell, I could observe the world around me from a very safe distance. I could stay in a room with others without any one hearing my voice meanwhile; I became apt at observing and studying people.



MY PEN AS MY VOICE



While I was comfortably sitting in my world, my pen spoke for me. Most often, expressing myself through writing was the surest way I could send a message across. It reached a stage that if I was angry with someone; I shot missiles so to speak with my pen. I never insulted anyone but I could write down the truth of what made me angry without mincing words so much so that those at the receiving end of my worded missiles could literally tiptoe around me. When I came to understand this, I tried as much as possible to avoid sending such missiles but my vocal cords did not become loud either.



ATTEMPTING TO BREAK THE SHELL



As a student, I could hardly participate in class lectures and discussions because of the fear of being laughed at. In fact, I had this unpleasant experience many times. What kept me going was the fact that many of my teachers believed in me and thankfully, in most cases, my answers and ideas were always correct. Nevertheless, being mocked by classmates even when I was right because of my voice was a huge setback in class room discussions. My attempt at breaking out of the shell to become vocal happened when I was a development student. Participating in field trips and group discussions was a must. There was no escape I had to talk. Thankfully, most of my team mates were cooperative and so they made it easier to participate in group discussions. I found myself getting animated during leisure moments when we discussed issues pertaining to women and the society. After completing my degree in Gender studies, I developed a passion for gender issues and as such, I was vocal in such instances to the extent that one of my team mates told me never to go back into my shell.



FINDING MY VOICE ONLINE



The encouragement to never go back into my shell was taken with a pinch of salt. I quietly sailed back into my comfortable shell after my program, while I continued my passion for writing behind the scenes. The internet gave me a strong incentive and platform to raise my voice when I joined Facebook and started writing updates as a pastime. Surprisingly, many of my friends started taking my updates seriously and adding their voices into it. Some became full debates as most of my updates were about social issues. From these updates, I started contributing in some Facebook groups as columnist and was encouraged to start blogging. The trigger factor to blog came five years after I was encouraged to blog when one of my posts on Sickle Cell showed just how ignorant many people were about the condition. I discovered the pressing need to debunk myths and educate people about sickle cell and my blog Joy2Endure.com was born.



GETTING OUT OF MY SHELL AND COMFORT ZONE.



No matter how vocal I was about debunking myths surrounding sickle cell, I was still very comfortable doing so behind the scenes. Things changed when I was selected as one of the participants of WorldPulse’s Voices of Our Future leaders in January, 2016. By helping me see the glass always as half full instead of half empty and by helping me see just how important grassroots people need to hear my voice and be empowered by my message, I was able to slowly start the journey of abandoning my comfort zone and daring to risk. At the end of my two months program, I became determined to raise my voice not only online but also offline, away from the big screen and the results was the successful organization of a pioneer workshop in Sickle Cell Care and Management. Now I can say, this is who I am. An advocate and a warrior fighting for change.



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