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My name is Helin Felix Kibodiya. I am twenty-three years old. I attend a university in South Africa named Pearson of higher education in the Midrand Campus. I am studying Law. One thing you do not know about me is that I was born with hearing deficiency.

Let me tell you more about it. I cannot hear from far. I hear whispers and I have to read your lips to understand what is being said. Although, I am one of those lucky people who could afford to buy hearing aids, but the problem is that I fear wearing them in public. My reason for being scared is that people will tag me as a “disabled person” and I do not want to be stereotyped. I felt I will lose my existing and potential friends. This is the point my fear started.

When I was in primary school, I disregarded the fact that I had a hearing problem. I ignored my reality and gave myself hope by saying “I am the way I am because I am different”. When I arrived at my high school in 2010, as a Form One (Grade 8) student, I had an experience. Some of my mates and I went to the dormitory to wait for mass (on Sunday). The school was owned by some Catholic reverend sisters. Soon, we began to climb a hill which would lead us to the place where the mass would be held. Upon climbing the hill, the assistant head girl called me. She called my name several times (which was unknown to me when she called).

Although, I did not respond or turned back to see who called (since I did not hear). One of my mates motioned to me to look behind and answer the assistant head girl. When I looked behind, the assistant head girl was walking towards me furiously. When she reached where I was standing, she said, “Did you not hear me call you? I called you several times and everyone around you turned towards my direction, but you did not turn back”.

At this moment, I did not know whether to lie about my condition or to tell the truth. Of course, I lied and told her I had a lot on my mind and I did not notice when she was calling me. I do not know how to lie, but my fear made me learn how to lie as a “defence mechanism”.

When someone calls my name, instead of telling them I did not hear, I will say “I had a lot on my mind”. I felt anxious about the future. I am studying Law at the university, but I asked myself, “What if I mess up? What if the judge says something and I cannot hear? What if I become a mother and I cannot hear my child crying?”

The ‘what if’ questions are endless. The thing about fear is that it belittled and controlled me, such that whenever I tried to get free from the bondage of fear, it would hold me back and whisper, “Do you want to embarrass yourself? You know you cannot do that; so stop trying!”

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