“I” is Annie Mokto, the young woman who set up this organisation. I was born on March thirteen 1980 in Cameroon with a plain white face from black parents, uncanny isn’t it? I should have been born black, but as I always do things my own way I showed up my white face to the great surprise of my parents. A whiter skin than any race’s with all the features of an African. Extraordinary, isn’t it?
I was a cute baby (veracious affirmation that can be confirmed by my parents).
I grew up.
My parents had seven children, two of whom were the white-faced Annie and Francine. The other white face Francine unfortunately deceased when she was about four. I am convinced that had she not left this world, we would have been very good friends, two of a kind, because we would have mutually understood each other.
Difference was not easy to live with.
I could not understand why I was not akin to the rest of my family, to my friends or everyone around me. This misunderstanding upset me so much all through my childhood and my adolescence.
As for my social life, I experienced so many extreme reactions towards me, ranging from adoration to rejection, which caused me to evolve in a thick cloud of misconceptions, learning difficulties, social distress, etc.
My academic past in Cameroon was the most difficult period since, not having had the opportunity to read on the blackboard very often, having developed a certain resourcefulness to reach information, I accumulated several gaps and no one helped me fill these in.
No one understood that I needed glasses and that I should have sat at the front of the classroom instead of the back. No one reacted when I handled my exams completely blank, no one noticed my failures were not due to a lack of understanding but to the absence of communication between adults who did not want to talk about albinism, or simply did not know what to say about it.
Socially, it was difficult, I was alone, at least I felt alone although surrounded and supported by my family. That is why I wanted to succeed so badly, I wanted them to be proud of me, I wanted to bring a brilliant report like all my little friends, I wanted to bring something good back home.
I knew that I was skilled, yet society, like my reports, presented me with an image of myself as an incompetent. Some teachers were mean to me, they hit me when I could not read, they insulted me when I got bad marks, they overtly despised me when I hadn’t done anything, they could not understand that I was not to blame. I never talked in class, too afraid to attract attention around me and thereby to start the never-ending flow of insults. I envied others: they could see clearly.
Those who liked me waved their hands at me to greet me, I never answered because I could not see them and they fancied that I was ignoring them. I eventually ended up locked in a bubble, in my bubble. I look but I cannot see.
The taboo, the unspoken temporarily lulled my will to study and socialise.
School, which I loved so much, eventually became a mental and physical torture. Reactions of passers-by directed towards me hurt so much that I finished waking up every morning with a stomach-ache just imagining what my day would be like. I would have liked to stay in my room and never get out. I couldn’t understand why people insulted me without any reason, I felt awful for myself, for my relatives and above all for my parents. I thought that if I could disappear, they shouldn’t have to put up with it anymore. Luckily for me my sisters were amazing, but this wasn’t enough.
I ended up quitting school, without telling my family why I didn’t want to go there anymore however. I myself had entered the circle of unspoken. My struggle to integrate myself had left me weary. Anyway, whom was I fighting for? What was I fighting for?
Some years ago, I undertook the process of understanding why I was born different and this comprehension eased so many aspects of my life.
I decided on going to an information centre dedicated to blind partially sighted persons in Bruxelles where I got everything taught back to the beginning: French, mathematics and many other things. Learning was wonderful. They brought me so much, as after having been supported I felt much more confident, I grew stronger and it this allowed me to follow correspondence courses and slowly, I could accomplish my secondary course (the Belgian CESS).
Certain technical adaptations helped me go through my studies and eased my way to university. For instance, I use a magnifying glass, I have a video magnifier at home, my exam copies are printed in bigger fonts and I installed a reading software on my computer, which allows me to read longer.
It is true that my sight problems did not facilitate my studying enormous syllabus, since my eyes do not ask me permission to stop working and it is still hard for me to know when they will take that decision. Thus I read until I can see the letters getting split in two and my feel my nerve wreck. Then I take a break and resume later.
It is quite complex to me and even more complex to explain to others, as it may happen that I should be stressed, that there should be too much light or any other factor and there we go, everything runs wild preventing me to read when minutes before I could read easily. All this to say that I’m still learning about my eyes, as I am getting to know them we will end up understanding each other. Anyway, my eyes and I have not been practicing for long: true reading is very new to me.
Thus it takes me more time to study bending before the good will of my eyes, I achieve to progress, difficultly, but I do progress.
Nowadays, I’m at university. It is an outstanding accomplishment for me when I look back at my school career in Cameroon… if I ever can call that a “school career” as I always considered myself as a mere passive spectator in class, the misfit.
This is a nasty memory considering what I am trying to shape up today. I want to share my experience with others as to prevent young children from having to have the same academic path as I had. My aim is to help parents develop open-mindedness towards their children. The latter have the right to be integrated into society via activities, formations and thereby possess a social and professional life. This tumultuous past shaped me, gave me my strength and my resilience.
The accomplishment I am the proudest of is my daughter Patricia Sabrina, whom I raised alone. She is an adorable little girl as she helped me an awful lot in my ordeal to learn. Yes, I do talk about my daughter because I needed a huge sense of organisation to bring up my child alone and achieve what I have accomplished so far.
My daughter has seriously supported me and keeps doing so. We form a strong team, a mother and a daughter who love each other.
When she was little, she would often ask me “Mommy, why is your colour different from mine? You are too white!” Then I would say “When a baby is inside its mother’s womb, a man comes and puts some colour on the baby. When he came to me, he noticed that his paint pot was empty. He looked at me and said: well, it doesn’t matter I suppose, moreover she is beautiful this way and she’s a human after all. My pot is empty but it is only a matter of colour.”
Now my daughter is almost nine and she knows that her mom is different because she doesn’t have pigments. Well, she did comprehend it but one day she will. Anyway, I haven’t understood it all myself yet.
Follow me in my project and you will know how my story goes; mine and theirs.
My dream? Integration.