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Jacky the Viti-Queen

I am Jackline Wanjiru 26yrs of age a student doing automotive engineering.  I am a model too and an actress.

Vitiligo for me started when I was 7yrs old…it scared me and my mum.  She took me to almost every know hospital to try and control the condition.  Going to so many hospitals and seeing so many doctors at a young age was traumatizing and to this day, I experience anxiety when I need to go to hospital or take medicine.

Luckily I got love from my the people around me. It wasn’t as tough as it is in most cases of people living with vitiligo.  I did not experience bullying growing up. The love and acceptance that I got helped me with dealing with vitiligo.  When everyone is accommodating you regardless of your condition you start loving you too and you accept yourself...it started when I was young so I got used to alot of things as I grew…it wasn’t hard for me.

I started modelling to send a message to people out there struggling with accepting themselves to show them that they are very beautiful and normal and that they can have a normal life just like any other person.  I tell them that they are totally fine and that they are amazing creatures regardless of their appearance and that the key to deal with what they are going through is accepting and loving themselves more.

There is stigma surrounding vitilgo in Kenya.  Some people say that it’s a curse.  Some even get rejected by their families and society…some say that you are bewitched and so on.  Some say that I am white some think I have burns.  It depends on how people take it.  

Doctors in Kenya sometimes take advantage of vitiligans desperation to want to get rid of the condition and stigma…in most cases they even give you wrong medications.  I believe doctors can become the cause of mental health problems when they give desperate vitiligans false hopes that it’s treatable without addressing their mental health and self esteem.  When the medical treatments they get don’t work, they get disappointed and become even more depressed.  

To challenge this stigma, we can create awareness by engaging in so many things e.g. modeling, visiting schools to talk about vitiligo, making more people understand what vitiligo is all about, talking to the media, etc.

In terms of mental heaIth, I think self esteem is the biggest struggle for most vitiligans.  There is one Kenyan actress struggling with vitiligo.  She couldn’t get out of her house even because of social anxiety.  So, me and my friend Julie Nasuju, who also has vitiligo, had a long talk with her.  We told her about our confidence living with vitiligo and our journeys.  We even did a photoshoot with her to show her how beautiful we are.  She was able to get out of her house after keeping indoors for two years.

Julie and I run an organization called Royal Patches.  I would say Royal Patches is like a family for many people living with vitiligo.  We visit people with vitiligo to counsel them.  We also hold events like sports, school visits and tree plantings to bring the vitiligo community together and help them feel that they are not alone.  Community is empowering for individuals living with vitiligo and improves mental health by reducing depression and social isolation.

There are many vitiligo organizations in Kenya.  I think it would be good for these organizations to partner with mental health groups in Kenya to support the mental health of vitiligans.

She has been helping to run an organization called Royal Patches which has been supporting people in Kenya with vitiligo.