- As the days turned into months and years, the chances of him going back to school appeared bleak.
- He could not find work. His condition made it difficult for him to get casual labour such as at constructions sites due to exposure to the sun.
- To make matters worse, the neighbours treated him like an alien. His elder sisters refused to accept him as one of them.
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Like a desert flower, Gideon Kilonzi’s life has blossomed into something he could not have imagined even in his wildest dreams when he was growing up.
The happy and confident young man overcame discrimination, rejection, despair and loneliness that came with being born with albinism and testifies to the power of attitude in transforming his life.
The 33-year-old says that the people in his life never let him forget that his skin and hair colour were different. His father avoided being seen with him and found his son’s condition embarrassing. With his mother passing on barely a year after giving birth to him, Gideon had no one to turn to for parental love.
After the death of his mother, Gideon was taken to a children’s Centre in Kitui where he grew up. His father turned into a raging alcoholic who never once came to visit Gideon until he was 16 years old. The only family member who came to visit him once in a while at the centre was his sister Agnes who also had albinism.
Gideon also had a brother with a similar condition and the three bore the trauma of being different together. Discrimination against them was spearheaded by their father and it had a ripple effect to their other nine siblings.
“Primary school was fun particularly because I was always being among the top three students in class. The children were not extremely mean although they would stare at me a lot. I got used to it as I understood their curiosity. It was a different story with the teachers. I could not wrap my mind around how a grown adult, a teacher, would discriminate a child based on their skin colour. The snide remarks, open stares, I saw it all and it was disheartening. When I joined high school later, things did not change much. People still stared at me. Some fearfully. Others in shock. I always felt like I was the clown in a circus or a specimen under observation.”
Unfortunately, Gideon had to drop out school in Form Three due to lack of school fees. He came back home in Mwingi hoping to make himself useful in the community, get a trade and hopefully resume school.
As the days turned into months and years, the chances of him going back to school appeared bleak. He could not find work. His condition made it difficult for him to get casual labour such as at constructions sites due to exposure to the sun. To make matters worse, the neighbours treated him like an alien. His elder sisters refused to accept him as one of them.
COMING TO THE CITY
In 2006, Gideon decided to relocate to Nairobi. His sister Agnes had relocated to the city after getting married and she offered to host him. He lived with her for three weeks before moving out to live with a friend he had made while staying at his sister’s home.