My name is Nisha, I am a nineteen-year-old from South Africa and this is the story of how I became who I am. WARNING: My life has more twists in it than a rollercoaster.
At six months I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) - an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement. As a result of having Cerebral Palsy I am unable to walk and my right-arm has reduced functionality. Growing up I used to watch other kids playing on the playground I used to be so envious and as I grew so did my anger towards God.
When I was 13 I was diagnosed with advanced Scoliosis – a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side – and within weeks I was on the operating table undergoing surgery in which a metal rod was placed between my vertebrae to keep them from fusing together and was subsequently bedridden for a year after that. As you can imagine being bedridden wasn’t exactly fun - I got into a mini-depression and put on a bit of weight – until a family friend of ours – who is now passed on God bless his heart – came to visit and told me I looked a little ‘plumpy’ – at first I was really hurt and then I took a good look in the mirror and realized that there might have been some truth in what he was saying and I made some changes in my life.
The year flew by in the blink of an eye and it was time for me to go back to school. I went for about a week before I realized that my body was never going to be as it was before the surgery – just sitting in class for eight hours was difficult – so my parents pulled me out of the public school system and made alternative arrangements.
At that point in my life everything was going according to plan school was going great and everybody was healthy and ‘happy’ but, I still felt as though something was missing – like everything in my life was mediocre. I had no clue what I wanted but, I did know that I did not want to lead a mediocre life. A few weeks after I had had this profound realization I was watching The Oprah Winfrey Show – as I always did – but this particular episode featured a young woman by the name of Kendall Ciesemier -one day after watching an Oprah Winfrey special: on the AIDS epidemic in Africa she took all the money that she had, put it in and envelope and sent to WorldVision to ‘adopt’ an orphan and in 2007 Kendall founded an organization called Kids Caring 4 Kids – an organization which aims to raise awareness and money for AIDS orphans and other highly venerable kids in Africa and to inspire kids to care for others in need. My mouth literally fell open when I heard Kendall’s story but, after watching the show I switched off the TV and went on with my normal life convinced that I could never do something so spectacular.
A few weeks later, I found myself laying on my bed crying because my back was hurting and all my muscles were stiff I remember asking God: Do you love me? Do you hate me? Do you even know I exist? Why me? A gentle voice replied: Why not you? That was like a slap in the face because I always thought that God had it in for me and that response made me realize that the world didn’t revolve around me. I paused for a moment before I asked: Why am I here? The gentle voice again replied: To show the world that anybody can make a difference and change the world. I remember thinking to myself: I can’t even go the bathroom by myself how in the hell does he expect me to change the world and then as if on cue I had a flashback to Kendall’s story and what Oprah said to one of her other guest’s once Kendall left the stage: Kendall is proof of what people can do from their hospital beds even – Kendall had just undergone a liver transplant and she asked her visitors to ‘adopt’ an orphan instead of bringing her flowers and candy. Watching that show and hearing Kendall’s story taught me that to change your reality all you have to do is shift your perception and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
A few months later I tried to raise $1 000 for a well -known organization called UNICEF - long story short I only raised $5 for the most part because I was naive an didn’t know what the hell I was doing. However, that experience did teach me what not to do and on March 5th 2010 I started my Clean Water for All Campaign. The objectives of the campaign are as follows:
- To raise $6 500 for The Water Project, Inc – an organization that provides clean water to communities all over the world who suffer needlessly without it – by March 5th 2012 and build a well somewhere in the world.
- To highlight the plight of those who don’t have easy access to clean water.
- To prove to the world that anybody can make a difference and change the world – even me: a nineteen-year-old girl in a wheelchair.
(Update: I raised $7 862 – enough money to build a hand pumped well in Kenya (the well is now complete see pictures of it here: http://thewaterproject.org/community/projects/kenya/new-well-in-kenya-485) – raised sufficient awareness and showed the world – through the internet – that anyone can make a difference).