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read the full story
My name is Wyclife Oluoch and I am 20. My birth name was supposed to be Wyclef, but the magistrate made an error on my birth certificate. I am an artist in Kibera slum in Kenya. I normally do recycling art with beer cans. I currently go to university in Nakuru studying I.T. on a scholarship but I struggle on my own to pay for rent and living expenses. I make whatever money I can with my art. I am the founder of Sun Valley Art Collective (@artsunvalley) a program that teaches art to youth from the slums.
I am a burn survivor. I got my scars the night before my second birthday. I was in my house alone with my two sisters. My mom, who is a single mom, had gone out that night for a funeral. We fell asleep. We woke up when we heard screams from outside house. The house was on fire, there was smoke everywhere and we couldn’t see anything. My sisters who were 4 and 5 years ran out of the house without realizing I was still in the house. The house burned to ashes. A few hours later after residents of the slum had put out fire, I was found still alive in my bed, under rubble. My mom had fainted at the sight of the house. We were both brought to the hospital.
I was in and out of the hospital for seven years to get treatment for my burns – I have had 17 surgeries
I lost a whole year of school due to my treatments. Going through the treatments caused me a lot of frustration and depression and I had to go through counseling to learn to accept my scars and situation.
My cousin, who was a psychology school dropout was my first teacher on learning to
Know myself and cope with the situation as it was. He always encouraged me telling me that I was not the only one going through this and that people can live well with burn scars. He also taught how to walk because the burn scars had caused the ties on my left foot to fuse together making it difficult for me to move.
When I look in the mirror, I see myself as beautiful because I am kind of unique. When I was younger people would call me crocodile or leather skin and I would often fight them. I developed strong self-esteem by toughening and standing up for myself.
My cousin passed away after 4 months of counseling, which forced me to toughen up. He had been the one standing up to my bullies, but after he was gone, I had to learn to fight for myself. This helped me to develop a stronger self esteem.
People have called leather skin, but I see that as a positive because it means that I have tough skin emotionally.
My advice for young people like me who have scars and experience bullying is for them to be positive and to use the rocks thar people throw at them to build a strong foundation of self- esteem. The bullies are weak. They can only use their words to hurt you but deep down they know you are strong and that is why they’re afraid. They will try to demoralize you so you can’t see your own strength and use it against them.
Just be real. Maybe one day you can help someone else. If I get the resources, one day I want to help other young people with mental health education to overcome bullying. I want them to realize their full potential and become who they want to be.