Kiera Elizabeth, 18 who is of Jamaican Indian mixed parentage was always bullied throughout her school days.
“I was called names and bullied because I didn’t look like one of them. Over the years I got so used to it that I thought it was normal to be called names and be bullied. The cruelty hurt and I was always angry and had low self esteem.” she said.
Kiera is from the second batch of girls from the Young Women’s Christian Organisation (YWCA) Kuala Lumpur who joined the Maharani programme, which helps young women from marginalised communities in Malaysia to develop themselves and achieve their full potential.
As the only child raised by a single mother, Kiera was determined to make life easier for her mother.
“I started working part-time as a waitress at the age of 15. I did not want to depend on my mother and wanted to be an independent person. But, after being bullied for years, I started to become a bully myself and I realised that I hated the person I had become,” she said.
“I joined Maharani at the age of 16. It was only when I joined the programme, I realised that what happened to me is not normal and should not happen to anyone else. No one has the right to put another person down and I should not accept such treatment from anyone,” she said.
She learnt about changing herself and building her self-confidence through Maharani.
“The programme helped me to change my thoughts and attitude towards life. I also learned about setting goals in life and I would write them down. I wrote about where I want to see myself in five or ten years from now,” she added.
Recalling her unforgettable memories from the Maharani camp, Kiera said the scavenger hunt and night nature walk made her realise that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
“I wanted to scream when we had to do the mud facial where each of us had to take mud from the bottom of a river and apply on the faces of our friends. During the night walk where we have to walk all alone with only the moonlight as a guide, I was praying that I would not see a ghost. Thinking back, I must say that it was one of the most fun things I experienced,” she said.
“I feel a sense of belonging as a Maharani girl. I have never felt that way at any phase of my life before that. This made me realise that I was worthy and now I have learnt to love myself,” she said.
Kiera says girls who are going through similar struggles must stand up and not allow anyone to put them down.
“Be who you are and be proud of it, do things that make you happy and you will succeed at the end of the day,” she said.
Kiera who loves cooking took up a culinary and baking course at YWCA. She plans to open her own restaurant one day.