Around two years ago, I was looking around YouTube when I came across Melissa's YouTube video of her trip to her Kenyan 'ushago'. A year later, I would receive the news that Melissa had won Face of Kenya U.K. Amongst the things that had given her a winning edge were her numerous volunteer activities and her personality. So just who is Melissa? I caught up with the 22-year old to find out.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Melissa Ida Petty. I graduated last year from University of Hull in LLB Law. I am now studying my Legal Practice Course and Master's in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Law in Leeds.
You aspire to be a family solicitor and a human rights activist. Why is that? How did you decide on that career path?
From an early age, I knew I wanted a career where I could help people, and where I could make a difference. My mother was a social worker and I admired her work with families, and upon studying family law I found it very interesting. However, during the past few years I have been aspiring to train as an immigration lawyer. I have always found campaigning for human rights very important. Growing up as dual heritage, with a Kenyan mother and an English father, I travelled to Kenya from an early age and I saw the differences in England and Kenya, such as the lack of education for girls in rural Kenya, and felt that I wanted to help these girls in Kenya to have the same opportunities that I have myself. I am particularly passionate in campaigning education should be for all no matter your background or gender.
You recently finished your term as Face of Kenya U.K. What made you want to compete for the position of Face of Kenya?
Upon finding the organisation Face of Kenya, I felt that it would be an amazing opportunity to give myself a challenge to raise as much money that I could for Mama Melissa Foundation. I also wanted the opportunity to meet more people in my community.
What were your duties as Face of Kenya U.K.?
My mission was to promote and be an ambassador for Kenya in UK. I have had the privilege to be a part of some amazing projects. I have campaigned for Ivory Belongs to Elephants, raising awareness to stop the ivory trade which is endangering the African elephant. I have also promoted World Oral Health Month in Kenya. I visited Gatina Primary School in Nairobi alongside Dentists and Dental Students to demonstrate to the children how to brush their teeth properly. I also collect ballet supplies from schools I attended in England and donate them to Anno’s Africa. I visited Kibera in April this year, where the project holds weekly after school creative programmes, and I was happy to see the classes in action.
You’re a trustee of the Mama Melissa Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
From the age of 9, I became an active volunteer for Mama Melissa Foundation which is a fundraising body that supports disadvantaged young girls in Kenya by paying for their school fees to give them access to secondary education and give them viable opportunities for earned income and tools to self-advocate their own life choices. I always loved fundraising, and felt education is so important and everyone no matter where in the world every child should have the opportunity to be educated.
How is the Mama Melissa fundraiser for the dorm for kids with disabilities going?
During a visit to Kenya in 2015, I became aware of the lack of opportunities for children with disabilities. It saddened me that it is estimated only 1 in 6 children with disabilities in Kenya attend school. I visited A.I.C Kangeta Primary School in Embu, Kenya. This is the one of the few schools in the area which provides education for children with disabilities. The school has a class of 16 disabled children. However, they have no facilities and there only option is to teach the children outside, which is not suitable at all. Last year, as part as my fundraising as a Face of Kenya ambassador, I started a campaign to build a classroom for the children with disabilities in the school. During the past year, I raised over £1000 which have already brought the materials needed for the classroom, I am still raising more funds so the classroom can be constructed and finished at the end of the year. This classroom will facilitate 25 disabled children.
Mama Melissa Foundation Website: https://www.mamamelissafoundation.org/about/
Mama Melissa Foundation recently added on the objective to spread breast cancer awareness. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
This year, myself and Mama Melissa Foundation have made a mission to promote awareness of breast cancer particularly in Kenya. In 2015, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am blessed that she is healthy and here with me today. It is difficult to picture your family, friends or even yourself to go through such a traumatic experience but, in reality, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Kenyan women and constitutes a major public health problem. Women in African countries are twice as likely to die from cancer as a woman in first world countries. 80% of reported cases in Kenya are diagnosed at an advanced stage, leaving few options for curative treatment. This can be prevented with just awareness. In April this year, I visited Embu Mbeere Hospice, a Hospice Mama Melissa Foundation are proud to be in partnership with. Speaking to the volunteers, it saddened me to find out that the hospice has had to turn people away on occasion due to a shortage in supplies. Therefore, we have made it our mission to provide their yearly supply of morphine, which roughly costs £600 per year.
You have also raised awareness on maternal health amongst the local Maasai tribe in Kenya. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
During Easter 2018, I travelled to Magadi with Nelson, a public health student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. We visited Magadi Hospital to raise awareness of maternal health among the local Masai tribe. We visited the Masai manyatta where we gave the young mothers milk and bread and informed them about the services of the hospital. People need to be educated, particularly some of the tribes which still follow their traditional methods which limits them from using hospital facilities to ensure safe delivery of babies, and make sure mothers and their children are healthy.
Tell us a little bit about your collaboration with Jim Nyamu to raise awareness in the U.K. to stop the domestic ivory market.
Jim Nyamu is a scientist and the founder of Elephant Centre Nairobi. He is a campaigner for the Ivory Belongs to Elephants project. I worked with him in England in raising awareness to stop the ivory trade, which is endangering the African elephant. Spending time with volunteers of the project, I learnt hard hitting facts that one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for an ivory, and that UK is the second biggest consumer to ivory, below America. Elephants cannot speak so we need to be the voice for them. In December of last year, Jim came to England and walked all the way from London to Bristol - in English winter - to raise awareness. He is now preparing to walk from Kenya all the way to South Africa! He will be walking from July to December.
More on this campaign: http://elephantcenter.org/cause/do-you-want-to-support-east-africa-walk/
Can you tell us a little bit about the Universal Peace Federation Young Achievers Award which you recently received at the Houses of Parliament?
Universal Peace Federation (UPF) is an international and interreligious network of individuals and organisations, including representatives from religion, government, civil society and the private sector, who are dedicated to achieving world peace. UPF is an NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, UPF supports the work of the UN, particularly in the areas of interfaith peacebuilding, peace education, and the strengthening of marriage and family.
The UPF Young Achievers Award is an award to celebrate future leaders of the world. I was honoured to receive an award for my humanitarian work in Kenya, and I was inspired by the all the awardees achievements.
You’re mixed-race. What has been your experience as a mixed-race person in the U.K.?
I have always loved being mixed-race in UK. It means I can enjoy both cultures, and I am always so proud to represent both countries. I also found it made me unique amongst my peers, uniqueness is something we must celebrate and treasure.
How do you keep in touch with your Kenyan heritage while in the U.K.?
I love eating Kenyan food when I can, I love eating chapatis and mandazi. I also love listening to African music.
Your parents are divorced. How was your experience growing up as a child of divorced parents? What would you say to encourage children from divorced homes?
It is never easy to go through such an experience, especially at a young age at 9 where you know something is wrong but you do not quite understand why everything is happening. You have to learn quickly to deal with change, and compromises, but this experience has only made me stronger. I have not been disadvantaged by anything coming from a divorced home, as my mother has worked so hard to provide me and my sister with everything we needed. Children from divorced homes should know that it is not their fault; their parents love them so much and will never stop loving them. Although this will make things different, your future is bright and this will not limit them from achieving everything they want to achieve. I am an example of this, amongst many others.
You do ballroom dancing competitively. What attracted you to ballroom dancing? What awards have you won in ballroom dancing? How many countries have you been to in competing for ballroom dancing?
I had been dancing different dance styles from the age of 2½, when I started ballet, however when I was around 10 years old I saw a demonstration of ballroom and Latin dancing and absolutely fell in love with it. It was not until my second year of university where I found my dance partner. We have mainly competed around England; however, we did get the opportunity to compete in the Netherlands where we won the Latin event. I love ballroom and Latin dancing as within this type of dance is more styles of dance which ranges in technique and character, from a Viennese waltz to a sassy samba. Dance has always been an outlet for me to express myself, and the fact I can share with my partner is amazing. Also, the outfits are amazing.
You like travelling. How many countries have you travelled to so far? Which was your favourite one? Which is your favourite travel destination in Kenya? Which places do you have on your bucket list?
I absolutely love travelling! To experience a new culture, food, meet new people is the most amazing thing. I have travelled so far to 10 different countries. It’s difficult to choose a favourite as each have so many amazing unique qualities. I enjoy travelling around Europe, I also love America. My favourite travel destination in Kenya is Mombasa; it is simply beautiful, and has everything you need for a perfect break from reality. I would love to go to Asia soon, particularly China, and South America.
You have a YouTube channel where you post about your travels and other parts of your life. What made you want to create your own YouTube channel? Will you go back to posting on it soon?
I started making a YouTube channel around the age of 15. I loved watching YouTubers and felt I would give it ago myself. YouTube has been such a positive experience for me as I have got the chance to make friends all around the world, such as in Canada and in Hungary. I post videos many for myself to remember my travels and experience, so I can watch them again in the future. I also post so other people can see if they want to travel to the same destination, and for them to get some ideas on the places they can visit. I will be posting very soon, I have vlogs from Berlin, Latvia, and Kenya I am in the process of editing. I also plan to do some sit-down vlogs on my experience in law school, and some tip videos on university life.
You’ve worked as a camp counsellor for Echo Hill Camp. How did you go about getting that position? What made you want to be a camp counsellor?
I wanted to have the experience of a camp counsellor at a young age. I always loved the movie Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan and always thought that American Camps looked like the most amazing place.
When I was 18 years old I sent my application to a company called Camp America. Camp America is used by camps in America for them to find international staff to work for them. As an applicant you write your skills, such as sports, arts, music etc, then Camp America find you a placement. I was placed at Echo Hill Camp in Maryland. This was a very memorable experience as this was the first time I had planned a trip and the first time I was travelling so far away from home by myself. I worked at camp for 3 months as a camp counsellor. I particular enjoyed teaching the kids dance, and art, but also got to do a lot of activities such as kayaking and beach hikes. Whilst I was there I was also trained and qualified as a lifeguard by the American Red Cross. I would recommend to anyone who loves working with children and wants a life changing experience to work at an American Summer Camp. It’s a great way to travel as you get paid for the work and you can go through organisations, such as Camp America, who can help you with your visa and your flights.
How do you balance taking part in extra-curricular activities with your school workload?
From primary school I have always taken part in extra-curricular activities. However, I made school my priority. I feel education is very important. Everyone should get involved in extra-curricular activities, anything from music to martial arts, as it’s a way to de-stress and to distract yourself from the pressures and stress of studying and the outside world; but don't forget that your studies are the priority. It's important to find a balance.
Tell us a little bit about your pro-bono asylum scheme.
During my second year of university, I decided to take part in Pro Bono Scheme for Asylum Seekers. This was aimed at providing free legal advice. I worked in a group and had to prepare and present a presentation to Asylum Seeker on a given topic. My presentation focused on how Asylum Seekers in the UK can access education.
What are your plans for the future? What can we look forward to seeing from you?
Over the next year, I will be finishing my LPC and LLM at University of Law, after which I wish to obtain a training contract with a firm where I can specialize in immigration law. Training contracts take two years to complete, and once completed I will be a qualified solicitor in the UK. I still plan on doing my campaign for breast cancer and supporting education in Kenya with Mama Melissa Foundation. You can also look forward to seeing more on my YouTube channel. I also plan to travel more around the world. I’ll keep you posted!
Too many to decide, I love all music from Afro Beats to Rock.
I love the Harry Potter movies and anything Disney.
Favourite fictional character?
Hermione Granger, intelligent strong woman not to be messed with.
Whom do you look up to?
My mother. She is the most inspiring person.
Do you have pets?
If so, what are their names? No, but I love dogs.
Lately, life has been getting away from me. In the midst of all the bad news we get nowadays, it can be hard to feel a semblance of happiness. It's not uncommon to feel under the weather, and I had been feeling this way until I saw a recent photo of Megan Markle at the Commonwealth Youth Challenge reception. Her bright yellow dress gave me a Tig moment.
Those who were avid readers of Meghan Markle's - now the Duchess of Sussex - blog, The Tig, would know what this means. A Tig moment - named after Meghan's favourite wine, Tignanello - simply means a moment of awareness. In Meghan's words, "So there I am, with very minimum wine knowledge, and I take a sip of this wine. It just wasn't red or white - suddenly I understood what people meant by the body, legs, structure of wine. It was an ah-ha moment at its finest. For me, it became a 'Tig' moment - a moment of getting it."
Now, you may be wondering, what about the colour of her dress was so important? You see, she was wearing this bright yellow dress, and yellow is quite a happy colour. It is a colour I associate with happiness. Seeing that dress just gave me a cheerful feeling, and suddenly I understood. I got it. I had to take a step back to reflect on the happy moments.
Negative headlines get much more attention than positive headlines. That's why the news is dominated by bad news. Does it mean that the world is getting worse and worse everyday? In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. Bad things aren't the only things that happen, good things happen too. And while we need to pay attention to the bad things so that we can fix those issues, we also need to pay attention to the good things so that we don't get stuck in a loop of depressive thoughts. This was a reminder that I very much needed.
So here I am now, asking you too to take a moment to reflect on the positive moments you've had in your life. Big moments, small moments, all of them matter. A happy story you read, a game you enjoyed, a movie you liked, a song that got you on your feet, an award you won, a moment of inspiration... What makes you happy? What is it you enjoy doing?
As for me, I'll take the weekend to have some cake, kick back, and relax. Here's to finding those Tig moments.
Heart attacks. Often deadly, they can be loud or they can be silent. But how would you know if you are having a heart attack? In the movies or on TV generally, they show heart attacks to be very dramatic; the person clutches their chest in pain and they often fall to the ground. However, in real life, heart attacks are often not as dramatic. In fact, you can have a heart attack without knowing it. This is what makes heart attacks so deadly because if you know you’re having a heart attack then you’ll seek treatment for it and if you get to the hospital in time, you could be saved. Therefore, it is important that we all be able to spot the symptoms of a heart attack. But this, in itself, is another problem. The classic heart attack symptoms – chest pain, with pain radiating to the arms, back, upper abdomen and jaw – are often found in males, i.e. females are more likely to have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue. Due to the atypical nature of heart attack symptoms in women, women are less likely to seek treatment for heart attacks than men, and even when they do, their symptoms are often dismissed. Different studies have also shown that women receive worse care after heart attacks than men. In fact, heart disease causes more deaths among women than all cancers combined, making it the No. 1 killer of women worldwide! With this stunning revelation, I decided to seek out women who have had heart attacks to ask them what their symptoms were and their whole experience of it. I talked with Sarah Larlar Fisher, Harley, Chassity Bynum, Tracie, Kai Moche, Lisabeth Cascio Esposito, Dorie Davis, and Leanne Simpson.
Sarah: I had a heart attack in Nov 2014 & emergency angioplasty procedure (LAD 70-90% - severe stenosis - stents fitted). My symptoms began (I think) two weeks earlier - shortness of breath, nausea, back and jaw pain, chest discomfort, mild flu like symptoms. I rang emergency, but the doctor told me over phone that I was too young for a heart attack – I was 43 – and later that day I was admitted to hospital. I spent a week in the cardiac unit, and then 16 weeks at cardio rehab (weekly sessions at local hospital).
RC: What made you suspect it was a heart attack? I mean, those symptoms could be anything really, which is what prevents most people from seeking emergency treatment. What would say was the 'AHA' moment?
Sarah: My husband is a trained first aider - he recognised my symptoms and literally saved my life. An ECG was done at my doctor’s and then I went straight to the emergency room by ambulance.
RC: Oh wow. That's really lucky. I think I should take a course in basic first aid then. Do you think everyone should be required to learn basic first aid?
Sarah: I think it should be mandatory.
Harley: Two days prior to my heart attack on April 5th I had from ear to ear lower jaw excruciating pain that lasted for just seconds and went completely away. Two days later I was having heart palpitations all day that I just figured was stress and I took a Xanax and laid down. Two hours later the palpitations were still going strong and when I stood up I was instantly dizzy and nauseous. I immediately thought to look up the signs of a heart attack for a woman. As soon as I saw the jaw pain I thought better safe than sorry. I was at first going to lay back down but went to ER instead. Sure enough, it was a mild stress heart attack. Cath lab the next day, no stents, no blockages, no coronary heart disease. Two weeks later, I was having irregular heartbeats, I went to the doctor and wore a heart monitor. I was having more than double the heartbeats in an hour than normal. Now I’m on two medicines to control rapid heartbeat and skips.
RC: When you went to the ER, did you just announce that you thought you were having a heart attack or what did you do?
Harley: I said I think I am having a heart attack, told them my symptoms and they immediately took me back. My husband is also a heart attack survivor. He had five stents put in.
RC: What were his symptoms?
Harley: Left arm pain, nausea, light-headedness, typical chest pain and sweating.
Chassity: I acquired peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), a disease of the heart that can develop in some women in the third trimester of pregnancy. I was 33 when I had my heart attack, just days after giving birth. I had shortness of breath and a numbness in my left arm. It felt like an elephant literally was sitting on my chest. Imagine that! I’m blessed that my hubby of 15 years called 911 because he saved my life. When they got to our home they informed him that I was having a heart attack.
Tracey: I experienced a heart attack nearly two years ago. Felt like terrible heartburn running up my left arm and in my back and belly. I worked out three times that day to shake the feeling. 14 hours later, I went to Target to get aspirin and tums and shared my symptoms with the pharmacist who advised me to immediately go to ER. Thank God for him. ER confirmed I was having a heart attack and it was a whirlwind from there. I had experienced a coronary artery dissection. We do not know what caused my artery to tear. I have a stent but no plaque in my arteries and no form of heart disease.
Kai: I actually did not have the typical symptoms because I had SCAD, spontaneous coronary artery dissection. SCAD is not well understood and is still being researched. I was working out and I experienced nausea and heartburn. My son got me to the hospital in time. However, according to the EKG and X-Ray, I was fine. The doctors were getting ready to release me but another doctor requested blood work and my blood work showed my Troponin levels were higher than normal which meant I had had a heart attack. When the doctors realized I had had a heart attack although I did not have a family history of heart disease or health risk factors, a cardiac catheterization was done and the surgeon saw that two arteries had dissected. My left anterior descending (LAD) artery was the worst of the two. My arteries looked as if a pair of scissors had taken to them. When I woke up in the ICU, I didn’t know what had happened and I was confused because I am a physically fit woman and I have always watched and weighed my food etc. Anyway, I am beyond grateful to be here, almost 5 years later on June 29th.
Lisabeth: I also have SCAD pain in the chest. I have had 5 heart attacks, 4 stents, triple bypass all within these past 6 months.
Dorie: I was having a heart attack for 2 weeks. I first noticed shortness of breath going upstairs and fatigue. I was having trouble sleeping. I had extreme neck pain that I thought was because I had pulled a muscle as I was still teaching step aerobics 2 days per week during that time as well. I went home early on Friday feeling awful just thinking I was coming down with a cold. Saturday night was bad and by Sunday morning my fiancé insisted taking me to urgent care as I was going to wait till Monday to see a doctor. He took me to the emergency instead for some reason and I told them I was not feeling well. They put me on an EKG and from there they could not undress me fast enough and before I knew it, I was on a bed being wheeled to OR. I was told I was 100% blocked and two stents later and couple of days in ICU was sent home with now 7 different meds that should prevent me from having another heart attack. I cannot stress enough to listen to your body. I was told with my condition that 90% usually do not make it. So grateful I was in that 10% and that all the step classes and soccer helped keep me alive as I was relatively healthy. Heredity and stress were the culprits for my heart attack.
Leanne: I have had stress (environmental and physical) related high blood pressure since 2007 when I was diagnosed with PIH – pregnancy-induced hypertension. My blood pressure was 209/190. An emergency was first induced when my first son was born. May 16/17th 10pm – 4.38am, I had my first known heart attack. Working with a cardiologist, we moved to determine if that was really my first. I had been doing pilates and yoga that night (I had been feeling too sick for Zumba, as I have issues with PCOS and endometriosis and I was having my period). Halfway through my workout, I felt super dizzy, a dizziness and light-headedness I couldn’t shake with my normal methods. So I did my cooldown and stood up a little bit and paced. Then I felt like a horse had kicked me in the chest. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I felt a squeezing sensation (like Braxton-Hicks contraction of the uterus, but in my heart instead). It happened over and over and over again and hurt worse and worse. Then I screamed out when I caught my breath. Now I am recovering. I have a weird new heart rate to get used to. I’m starting to do my workouts again, slowly easing into them. But when my heart hurts and I can feel the burning I cool down and stop. I’m hoping to get back to my Zumba classes soon as we are moving to a new location and that’s my job. I monitor my BP everyday and it’s been back to 120/80 which is amazing.
RC: Did you take yourself to the hospital or did someone else take you?
Leanne: Someone else. I didn’t know what to do. As far as I was concerned, I was perfectly healthy and an athlete.
RC: Did PCOS and/or endometriosis play any role in your heart attack?
Leanne: It’s possible. I found out that the heart attack had to do with bradycardia (hypotension) problems and not my normal ventricular tachycardia or hypertension. So it may very well have to do with the fact I was menstruating with my endometriosis and PCOS.
So, what should you do if you suspect you're having a heart attack? Doctors all agree on the better safe than sorry approach, i.e. get checked out anyway. You'd better get checked out and it turns out to not be a heart attack than you not get checked out and it turns out it was a heart attack. Call an ambulance if you can and get to the hospital as soon as possible. Aspirin is an appropriate treatment for a suspected heart attack because it is an anticoagulant i.e. it clears clots, so you can take an aspirin if you suspect you're having a heart attack. If you do take an aspirin, tell the doctors/emergency response team. If you can't take aspirin, for example due to allergies or gastrointestinal bleeding, DON'T take the aspirin. If you have nitroglycerin (prescription only), take it. DON'T take someone else's nitroglycerin as that could put you in more danger. If you're with a person who collapses, begin CPR. If you don't have CPR training, just do chest compressions.
It is also important to know the risk factors. High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake are amongst the risk factors for heart attacks. However, as we've seen, some heart attacks can be due to genetics and even stress. Others, like SCAD, affect even the healthiest of individuals (especially young women), a phenomenon that has really confused medics. The risk factors that you can control, it is advisable you take control of them and make the appropriate lifestyle changes.
All in all, heart attacks can be fatal, but creating awareness improves the recovery rates and prognosis by simple things such as ensuring people know the symptoms, that they can get to the hospital in time, and that they are not dismissed.
Emergency numbers in Kenya:
Kenya Police Hotlines
999, 112, 911
Fire and Ambulance Services
020-2222181/ 020-2222182/ 020-2344599
Kenyatta National Hospital
Use these numbers to call:
020 2726300 -11
Kenyatta National Hospital
Disaster management command center: 020 2115953
Labour ward: 020 271151
Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi
3rd Parklands Avenue, Limuru Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: +254 (0) 20 366 2000
The Mathare Hospital
Embu - Nairobi Hwy, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-202337694 Mobile: +254-721336017
Kenya Red Cross
South C, RedCross Road, Off Popo Road
P.O. Box. 40712, 00100
Tel: +254 02 3950000
Cell (1): +254 703 037000
Cell (2): +254 722 206958
Cell (3): +254 733 333041
Toll Free HOTLINE: 1199
St. John's Ambulance
N.B. St. John's Ambulance offers free evacuations for all emergency and disasters like road crash, fire, collapsed building, and terror attacks and for life-threatening emergency medical conditions e.g. in case of unconsciousness, blocked airway (choking), difficulty breathing and severe bleeding.
Belated happy new year! I celebrated my 22nd birthday on January 6 and, in honour of that, here are 22 things that would make the world a better place if we all practised them. After all, to change the world, you must first change yourself.
1. Tell the truth.
2. Admit your mistakes, apologize, learn from them, and do better.
3. Confess your faults/weaknesses.
4. Express gratitude.
5. Ask for help.
6. Offer to help someone.
7. Give a sincere compliment.
8. Applaud someone else's achievements.
9. Communicate your expectations.
10. Comfort someone that's hurting.
11. Confront and solve interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts.
12. Pledge your support to causes that build the world, not destroy it.
13. Discourage gossip.
14. Protest evil.
15. Share your knowledge.
16. Offer constructive feedback.
17. Defend someone against destructive criticism.
18. Tell clean jokes.
19. Say 'please'.
20. Express genuine concern for other people.
21. Keep your promises and do not make promises that you can't keep.
It's finally my birthday! 22! Here's my birthday playlist.
1. Palette by IU ft. G-Dragon
2. I by Taeyeon ft. Verbal Jint
3. Move by Taemin
4. Lemon by N.E.R.D & Rihanna
5. Todo Cambio by Becky G.
6. 7/11 by Beyonce
7. Cell Black Django by Todrick Hall
(If you haven't watched the movie Chicago, you won't get the reference.)
8. Universe by EXO
9. Into the New World by SNSD
10. Why by Taeyeon
A brave soul, he fought till the very end.
Oppa, you did good. You worked hard. You endured so much. You will be missed. Rest well.
In memory of Kim Jong-hyun
1990 - 2017
날 바라 보는 눈빛 에
무슨 의미 를 담고 있나요
조용히 불어 오는 바람 이
답 을 알려줄 까요
그대 까만 눈동자
말 은 하지 않지만
수많은 이야기 가
들려오 는 것 같아요
아픈 마음 도
아린 기억 도
뜨거운 눈물 속에
모두 녹지 않으면
지금 이 시간 속 으로
모두 흘려 보내요
In your eyes that look at me
What meaning is inside?
The quietly blowing wind
Will it tell me the answer?
Your black eyes
They don’t talk but
I feel like I can hear
My painful memories
If they don’t all melt
In hot tears
Send them all
Right now, in this time
(song by SE O titled Sad Heart).
Standing by her bedside table, she turned to look at the clock. It was 6:03am, Christmas morning. She could feel it coming, the panic attack. Her heart was pounding out of her chest. Her hands were shaking like those of a malaria patient. Beads of sweat were forming on her brow. She could feel the light-headedness start to take over. She sighed, took a seat, and closed her eyes for a few seconds to try and steady her heartbeat. Her mind when back to the day when it all begun.
It all happened on the night of Christmas Eve, six years ago, when she was seventeen. The night had taken a turn she did not anticipate. It was supposed to be a good night, she was supposed to have been reunited with her elder brother, Faraja, whom she hadn’t seen in months. He was coming home for Christmas. He had promised. He had called. He had said that he was on his way. But alas! In a cruel twist of fate, the rug had been pulled from right under her feet.
She remembered coming home from school to find a meal fit for a king on the table. Her parents had gone above and beyond to prepare for Faraja’s homecoming. There was pilau, chapatis, nyama choma, roast potatoes, roast chicken, an assortment of vegetables, and maziwa mala; all Faraja’s favourites. There were party signs all over the living room. She remembered how elated they all were. They had last seen Faraja last Christmas season when he had spent Christmas with them before heading back to university where he was studying to be a paediatrician. Since the university was so far away and his study schedule was very hectic, he could only afford to see them once a year, and they all agreed that Christmas would be the time when they all got together. They had waited with big smiles on their faces and when that doorbell had finally rung, they had all clamoured to the door, their hands wide open to give him a huge hug. But it wasn’t him. Instead, at the door, were two policemen, there to announce that Faraja was dead.
“We’re sorry to come bearing bad news, especially since it’s Christmas season. There is no easy way to say this, but Faraja is dead. He was involved in a hit-and-run accident. A drunk driver run him over. He was hit while pushing away a little girl from the path of the car. He saved her life. He was a very brave boy.” The officers had said.
The words themselves were soul-shattering. She could feel her world coming to an end. It was like someone was ripping her heart out of her chest. Her chest was constricting, she couldn’t breathe. Her brain fogged up. She vomited onto the floor before letting out a loud wail and collapsing from the weight of the grief.
They had buried him a week later, and life had never been the same since. The following year saw her fail out of high school and hence lose a scholarship to a prestigious university and her chance to go to university. Her parents’ marriage broke apart because her father sought solace in the bottle and became hostile to everyone. Christmas had forever become a tainted holiday to the family.
Now, six years later, she was still grappling with Faraja’s death. And although she had done better – she had redone her high school final exam, she had gotten into university where she was studying to become a paediatrician to fulfil Faraja’s dream, and she had gotten a place of her own in the city – it was always during Christmas that it was the hardest. Her family may have stopped celebrating Christmas, but the rest of the world hadn’t. The Christmas songs, the Christmas lights, the Christmas cookies; even the Christmas shopping offers, brought her to her knees, overcome with emotion, every single year. The Christmas season remained to be the saddest days of her life, and this year was no different. To her, Christmas would forever be a reminder of what she lost: a brother, a guide, and a friend. She sighed, shook her head, and walked to the bathroom. She took a lengthy cold shower then headed back to bed. She put a pair of headphones over her ears, plugged them into her laptop, and blasted out Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer to drown out the celebration that was happening all around her.
Meet Margaret Muchemi. A fast-rising commercial and runway model, make-up artist, former Miss Kajiado County, and Miss Supranational Kenya 2015, Margaret is taking the modelling and beauty industry by storm. I first met Margaret in a small primary school in Maragua where we both studied. She had transferred in from another school, and she was one class ahead of me. By sheer coincidence, we ended up attending the same high school. She was in form 2 then and a prefect, and when she found out that I had been accepted into Kenya High, she went out of her way to make me feel welcome and at home there. She even waited for my arrival and personally showed me around! Now, Margaret, or as she's fondly referred to by friends, Maggie, is wrapping up her studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) as she prepares to head to Harvard where she was accepted on a partial scholarship (details of which are being ironed out). Clearly, Maggie is not your average model/youth. Here she is, in her own words.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Margaret Muchemi, I grew up in Kajiado, studied at the Trinity School in Maragua and later at Kenya High School and I'm now at JKUAT in my final year studying financial engineering.
One could say that your modelling career started when you participated in several modelling events while still in high school. What piqued your interest in modelling?
I honestly did not believe that I could be a model but I realized that I loved to catwalk after having to participate in several mandatory competitions we had in high school. I remember taking part in Junior Entertainment, an event in which form ones entertained the rest of the students through dancing, singing and modelling, and I won the catwalk event. Afterwards, my desk mate, Sarah, pushed me to audition to represent my house in Miss Boma. I ended up winning the actual title of Miss Boma.
You won the title of Miss Kenya Kajiado County in 2015. What motivated you to compete for the title of Miss Kenya Kajiado County?
After my modelling succes in high school, I wanted to join the Miss Kenya competition. Since we had to start from county level, what better county could I represent than the one I have lived in for almost 20 years now! I love Kajiado and I wanted to showcase what my county has to offer.
You competed in both Miss Kenya and Miss Supranational pageants while still in university. How did you balance between pageant work and school work?
People think competing in pageants is easy but, honestly, it's hard work and it's very time-consuming. I actually had to take a break from school to focus on Miss Kenya and Miss Supranational because they both involve boot camps. Seeing as competing in these pageants got me recognition from Harvard, I would say it paid off.
Models are stereotyped to be dumb and superficial, even though most models are actually the opposite. As a model, have you met people who had this perception of you? If you did, how did you deal with it?
Yes. Honestly, it happens all the time. It can get really hard, especially when you're applying for something that needs you to be taken seriously, like a 'formal' job. Some people are also shocked when they find out that I'm studying financial engineering. I think judging people based off of how they look is shallow and uninformed. Get to know the person first then make an unbiased judgement. Besides, are we really still judging people on looks? In 2017? That women can either be pretty or be brainy is an archaic concept rooted in misogyny.
What made you gravitate towards financial engineering?
Well, I grew up knowing that having success, career-wise, is having a 'big job'. And because I went to one of the big schools in the country, as far as 8-4-4 public schooling in Kenya is concerned, there was so much pressure to choose a 'serious' thing to study in university. Since I loved maths and always scored straight As in the subject, I decided to choose something mathematical, and that's how I landed on financial engineering. For those who don't know much about the course, it's like the sister to acturial science. I love this course, and I'm glad that I will be graduating soon. One thing that I have learnt while studying is that in our society, people won't respect you if you haven't completed your studies all the way to university, and I don't think that's fair. If you didn't get the chance to finish school, just know that you can still achieve your dreams. And for those in school, know that formal learning is beneficial and it gives you something to fall back on.
You ended up being amongst the top 20 in Miss Supranational 2015, 16th to be exact, with a total of 82 countries competing. How did it feel to achieve such a feat, especially since Kenya was very new to the Miss Supranational scene?
This was one of the most difficult periods in my life. It was a last minute decision to send me to the competition, and I almost gave up due to the lack of support. The other competitors were coming from well funded agencies and I was not, and that brought about some challenges. Despite the difficulties, I held my head high. I did the best I could with what I had. Thankfully, my friends and family were always cheering me on. Placing that high despite all I went through made me believe that I could really achieve anything if I put my mind to it.
You were to attend Harvard after graduating from JKUAT. Will you still be doing that? If so, what will you be studying at Harvard?
I'm still working out the details of this. Hopefully everything works out.
Since you blew up in the pageant scene, you have been a little quiet. Why is this? Have you been undertaking projects on the down-low or did you take some time off?
I have been in school. This is my final year, and final year is always the busiest. I don't really have time for much else. Right now, it's just school, my make-up business, and a few modelling gigs. But school is the primary focus.
You won the 2015 Best Female Model Award when you represented Kenya at the Diaspora Entertainment Awards and Recognition (DEAR). How did it feel to be recognized by the Kenyan diaspora community? Do you think that DEAR is doing a good job at bringing Africans in the diaspora and in the continent together?
Yes, DEAR is doing a job job. The award shines a spotlight on Kenyan works and brings Kenyans together. I was very happy and humbled to win the award. The DEAR family is run by very strong and supportive women who are very passionate about Kenya and Kenyans. I'd like to thank to thank Pam Moraka, Lydia Komungo, and Lydia Akum for believing in me and continuing to support me.
You have worked on several campaigns such as the anti-jigger campaign with Ahadi Kenya and you’ve also worked with the NGO Smile Train. What lessons did you learn from taking part in these projects?
The most satisfying kind of joy you can get is from making an impact on people's lives. I am thankful to have been able to help out in making a positive change in the world. I learnt that there is always someone who needs your help, however big or small, and that if we work together we can accomplish great things. I know that's a cliché, but it's true.
In your opinion, is there colourism in the Kenyan modelling industry?
Yes. Unfortunately, the lighter your skin colour, the more jobs you'll book. It's an unfortunate and ugly truth that many people worldwide have to deal with. However, I have to say that I have noticed a positive change. The industry is growing and there has been a shift. Most runways are now focusing on showcasing all the different shapes, shades and sizes we come in, which is good.
Being a model exposes one to extreme scrutiny of their body. Have you had any such experiences? If so, how did you deal with them?
Yes, I have had these experiences. Everyday, during casting calls, our measurements are taken and some agents will berate you for any changes they deem unacceptable. The current gold standard in modelling is thin, and we are required to fit very narrow standards of beauty, which can drive people into eating disorders. I've actually noted that models are the most insecure people when it comes to body image. You can do your best to eat right and hit the gym, but even that will not be enough for some people. In my part, I try to maintain a healthy diet and to workout whenever I can. I also remind myself that I am enough and that my health matters more than any job.
You recently ventured out as a make-up artist. How is this going? Many make-up brands have been criticized for not catering for darker shades. Have you come across this as a make-up artist? How do you find the Kenyan make-up brands?
I love to do makeup, it’s fun and I just love how much it transforms a person. Yes, there is a void in make-up for darker-skinned people, and I hope that that changes soon. We have seen brands like Fenty Beauty that have come out with wide shade ranges to accommodate people of all colours, and that's the direction we should be headed in. Kenyan make-up brands have also been making waves. Brands such as Suzie Beauty and Huddah Cosmetics have been doing really well. If anyone is going to create shades for us Kenyan skin tones, it's going to be one of us, right? Who else knows our skin like we do? Who knows African skin like Africans? We have to support our own. I'm thankful to all the brands and entrepreneurs out there who are working towards making sure that every colour, every shade, and every skin tone is represented and catered for and I hope that the other brands join the bandwagon.
What advice do you have for young (Kenyan) women venturing into the modelling industry?
Keep your goals in mind and remain focused. Modelling isn't easy.
What is the toughest challenge you’ve met so far?
As a model, the toughest challenge has been sexual harassment. When trying to make it in the modelling scene there are people who try to take advantage of you, and, modelling aside, sexual harassment is a problem that women go through day after day. I mean, the statistics for this are staggering! Women all over the world, irregardless of what they do in life, are going through this. It is definitely an issue that needs immediate fixing. Women are not objects of pleasure, and men need to learn that. Men need to respect women. We need to have these conversations and we need to have them now.
What advice do you have for young Kenyans and Kenyans in general during this political crisis?
Kenya is our home. We are all responsible for taking care of our country. We should all bear that in mind, whether we are pro-Jubilee or pro-NASA. As Kenyan citizens, we need to familiarize ourselves with our rights. When you see someone else's rights being abused, don't be quiet, speak up! We need to protect ourselves and each other.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Definitely as a successful woman with a positive impact on society.
Magline Jeruto, 24, is Miss World Kenya 2017. She is currently in Sanya, China, representing Kenya on the Miss World stage. Before winning the title of Miss World Kenya 2017, she worked as a travelling consultant in a private company in Nairobi. She plans to focus her charity on children with autism because they're are often left out in our society. And while she was elated to go to China, the road there hasn't been easy.
The Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts was supposed to disburse funds for the Miss World Kenya team to be used in preparation for the competition, as well as in paying for airfare and other costs incurred. However, the ministry failed to do so, and this has taken a toll on the Miss World Kenya team, as well as on Magline's performance. In Terry Mungai's words, “…expenses such as airline tickets, wardrobe, accommodation, and participation expenses have to be facilitated to create a conducive and equal environment for all contestants." The Miss World Kenya team made an emotional plea to president Uhuru Kenyatta but it is unclear if any action has been taken.
Despite the monetary problems, Magline's performance has been commendable. She emerged amongst the top 30 in the top model challenge which was won by Nigeria. The way Miss World is operating this year, the winners of the head-to-head challenges and the winners of the 5 fast track events - 4 of them being top model, sports, talent, and beauty with a purpose - advance directly into the top 40. Altogether, that's 25 spots in the top 40. The remaining 15 will be chosen by the judges. Magline's chances of advancing into the top 40 remain with the judges. Our votes for her also count. She needs our support and we need to show her that we believe in her. We need to vote for her and show our support on her social media pages.
Voting can be done in 3 simple ways:
1. Like Miss World Kenya's Facebook account and invite as many friends as possible to do the same.
2. Voting for her on the official Miss World website. You need to login to vote, which means you need to create a profile on the website, but worry not! It's all easy to do.
3. Vote for her and follow her on her Mobstar account.
Kenya has never won the title of Miss World. Winning the Miss World title will bring good PR to Kenya, which is especially good for us in the recent turmoil and political uncertainty. Let's help Magline bring home the crown.
Today, Kenya has been rocked with the news that Trans Nzoia county is on alert over a suspected Marburg case. Ebola has been thrown around, and people have been asked not to panic. Already, a quarantine has been enforced in the affected area as we await results from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). But what really is Marburg and why should we be concerned? Here are 3 reasons why.
1. Marburg is Ebola's cousin.
We all remember the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis in West Africa. Who can forget the pictures of doom, of people wasting away from a strange disease with no cure at hand? Well, Marburg is Ebola's cousin and is just as dangerous. The Marburg virus, shortly referred to as Marburg, is one of the 8 deadliest viruses in the world. The virus was so named after the town in Germany by the same name where it was first described - in 1967. It belongs to the Filoviridae family of viruses, just like Ebola. In fact, Marburg and Ebola share a common ancestor, and their existence predates human existence. Viruses of the Filoviridae family cause severe diseases in humans and primates in the form of viral hemorrhagic fevers, which, in simple terms, means that the viruses cause high bodily temperature and leakage of blood from blood vessels. Additionally, this means that symptoms of infection by these viruses are similar. These viruses are so dangerous that they are designated the highest level of containment, Biosafety Level 4.
2. Marburg is highly transmissible.
Marburg easily spreads from person to person. In recorded cases of Marburg, patient zero is usually someone who contracted it from fruit bats or primates such as monkeys. Fruit bats are the host of the virus, and humans can get it directly from fruit bats or from infected primates. In our case, Marburg came to Kenya from neighbouring Uganda, where patient zero contracted it from laboratory work involving African green monkeys. Once it has infected a person, the virus catches on like wild fire. It spreads through bodily fluids i.e. blood, saliva, tears, semen, vaginal fluids, sweat, mucus, breast milk, urine, pus, and so many more. What this means is that if someone with Marburg sneezes around you, there's a very good chance that you will be infected from breathing in the bodily fluids of the infected person in their sneeze. Think of it like TB, but so much worse. Unprotected sex with someone with Marburg, you get Marburg too. Like AIDS, but so much worse. Touch someone with Marburg, be in the same vicinity as someone with Marburg, ding ding ding! Even touching clothing and bedding of an infected person may lead to infection. This is why the first step of action in a suspected Marburg case is quarantine. The entire area is cordoned off. No one leaves, and no one goes in except authorized essential health personnel. It is also why health personnel dealing with Marburg dress the way they do: respirators, face shields, full body suits, goggles, shoe coverings, two pairs of gloves, apron, and a hood. They're dressed like that to prevent infection, and anyone going into the affected area must to be dressed like that too. Even though the outbreak has not been confirmed to be Marburg as we are still awaiting results from KEMRI, containment steps at the highest level must be taken immediately the virus is suspected. It is important to note that the virus can be in incubation mode for up to 21 days, meaning that someone may be infected but not show signs of infection for those 21 days. This is why quarantine of ALL people in the affected area is important. Different areas should be designated for the diagnosed people, the suspected cases, the people who may have been infected, and the rest of the population in the area.
3. No cure and high mortality rate.
Marburg fever is a severe and highly fatal disease. Symptoms include hemorrhage, high fever, severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting, severe headaches, severe malaise, abdominal pain, cramping, and extreme lethargy. Patients may appear 'ghost-like' i.e. pale with deep-set eyes and expressionless faces. Death may occur 8-9 days after onset of disease, and it is preceded by severe blood loss and shock. Fatalities of recorded outbreak cases have gone as high as 88%. There is no known cure for the virus. People infected with Marburg remain infectious as long as the virus is in their body.However, a possible vaccine and possible cures for both Ebola and Marburg is being investigated.
How can we stay safe?
1. Do not panic. Remaining calm and level-headed is very important. The area affected has already been quarantined and border patrol is on high alert.
2. Read extensively about the virus and how to spot an infected person.
3. If you suspect that you and/or someone else is infected by the virus, seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Keep away from people as much as possible to not infect anyone else, and inform health officials of your suspicions from the start so that they can protect themselves too. If Marburg is confirmed, a special team - with a hotline, I suppose, will be put in place to handle the disease so as to lower transmission rates. Guidelines on handling a Marburg victim can be found here. DO NOT go to a herbal specialist or a traditional doctor. While herbal specialists and traditional doctors are very important people in the society, they are simply not equipped to deal with this class of viruses. In fact, the first suspected case of Marburg here in Kenya is that of a herbal specialist suspected to have been infected by a patient from Uganda who crossed the border seeking herbal treatment. I repeat. DO NOT go to a herbal specialist or a traditional doctor. While herbal specialists and traditional doctors are very important people in the society, they are simply not equipped to deal with this class of viruses.
4. Stay alert. Marburg is dangerous, but, with the proper surveillance and protection, the situation is far from hopeless.
5. Stay away from bats and primates. If your work involves these animals e.g. laboratory work involving African green monkeys like in this case, observe good laboratory practices and biosafety protocols. Do not eat these animals, that's how Ebola broke out in West Africa.
6. Examine your burial practices. Burial practices have a lot to do with disease. Before modern burial was embraced by Kenyan communities, the most common method of burial was feeding the corpse to dogs or wild animals and this led to a high prevalence of hydatid cysts (tapeworms) in humans because the human remains were somehow making their way back to food and water due to improper disposal. In New Guinea, an entire population was almost wiped out by a prion disease known as Kuru because they cannibalized the brains of the dead person as part of their burial rites. In Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, the spread of Ebola was especially fueled by their burial rites. Bodies of people with Marburg must be handled and buried by the personnel handling the containment of the virus. This is because the virus is still contagious in the dead person.
7. Raise awareness. Educate your friends and family. Do not forget about those in rural areas. Reach them too. Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks.