…Shape, size and scars. These are some of the common insecurities that massacre every shred of confidence one can possess. Women feel the pressure to weigh certain kilos, have a particular melanin shade and definitely a clear skin tone.
But trying to be something else is honestly a waste of who you truly are. You need to accept the areas that make you feel fragile and capitalise on your strengths. A beautiful soul called Valentine Mabaso embraced her own scars and now gives hope to all those who feel trapped by their skin conditions. This #MotherlandMogul is a Marketing Specialist by day and a Rock Scars warrior every day. Her aspirations are to help others see that their strength is written on their skin and to help them see the beauty in their scars.
She lives with a chronic skin condition called Atopic Dermatitis and has been living with it for 10 years to date. The 23-year-old was born and bred in the rural villages of Limpopo and currently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa. Valentine has two awesome younger brothers and they were raised by a single mother who is Valentine’s number 1 cheerleader in her mission to change the world.
What Rock Scars priorities are you focusing on right now?
At this stage we are prioritizing on the following:
- To provide a platform and an environment that serves to empower and inspire people living with any form of skin condition or a scar of any kind.
- To restore self confidence in people of any age and gender, living with scars by providing support, networking, mentoring, encouragement and health care activities across the nation (particularly concerning skin disorders, cancer and scars of any form).
Rock Scars also educates people about skin conditions. Do you do this personally or do you have professionals who conduct these sessions?
We have unfortunately not worked with any dermatologist to date but we hope to have a professional assisting with that in future. I personally made thorough research about different forms of skin conditions, the common ones and those that are rare. I look at how they can be prevented and/or treated and how to live with them and then I share that with others.
We call this Skin Condition Awareness and it is Rock Scars’ way of educating people about skin conditions. However, I always make it clear that our participants should in all cases seek medical attention with professional Skin Doctors. Also, as people come forward to share their stories about their skin conditions, I further research about the skin conditions and then create awareness about them, especially with our online communities.
How do you tackle discrimination against the people you assist?
I believe that no one is born with a discriminatory mind, such things are learned from people and events around us. If we can teach people especially those not directly affected by us and our scars, then we can change their minds thus tackle being discriminated. We teach people to learn to appreciate diversity and respect people who are different in any way.
People may be disabled, transgender, dark-skin or have a different hair color, scars, stretch marks or a skin condition but the truth is, no one chose to be that way so why should we discriminate them. Rock Scars promotes dialogue on social media and during the events where we engage those living with skin conditions and scars and those who don’t.
In as much as I wish to protect the people I assist against discrimination and negative remarks, I unfortunately, cannot be there for them all the time. This is why during the sessions or our 1 on 1 conversations I remind them that they are warriors. That way they will be strengthened and will stand their ground under any circumstance.
I call them warriors not because I want them to feel better but because it is true. If you can survive a burning house, car accidents, cancer, and its many surgeries, live with a chronic condition for so long, why should words from someone you don’t know break you? I remind them that it matters NOT what others say. They should know that they fought bigger battles and won them and now they have the scars as medals to prove it.
How do you respond when Rock Scars is held up as an object of ridicule?
The best tool I believe in is education. Most people make such remarks because of misinformation, so the best way to correct such behavior is through educating them about our conditions.
For example, I was told a lot of times that I must be HIV positive because of my skin and its scars. This example goes to prove that people can just look at you and make their own assumptions and conclusions. Through Rock Scars, I show people it is not ok to make your own conclusion just by looking at me.
Often when we get ridiculed for what we do, I always remind people that no one ever voluntarily goes out there to get a scar for the fun of it. We try to make those ridiculing us understand that even if they are not infected they are probably affected in some way. They have someone in their lives who has a scar or is living with a skin condition. We are patient with those who do not agree with what Rock Scars does and let them know that in any case the same happens to them they are welcome to our family of warriors.
To grow, do you advertise Rock Scars or do you rely on word of mouth? Why?
I use every opportunity I get to promote the good work Rock Scars does. We interact with most people online and therefore use that as an advertising tool. It allows us to reach a large number of people across the globe instantly and it is cost effective, which is beneficial for a small social enterprise like Rock Scars.
We are also occasionally given the opportunity at various TV and radio stations in South Africa to advertise our brand through interviews. Podcasts and videos are available on our website. We also attend seminars of other organizations with similar objectives which contribute to our growth.
Besides the struggle to get proper venues for events what other challenges are you facing as an NGO?
My biggest challenge is running this organization and having to do my 9-5 cooperate job. Rock Scars is a social enterprise and as much as I would love to devote 100% of my time to it, I unfortunately, can’t.
I depend solely on my income to run the Rock Scars campaign and help others. I am not complaining, I love my job but I would love to travel across the country especially schools to encourage and educate learners that scars are beautiful.
What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact?
There are various ways we use to measure the effectiveness of Rock Scars. One would be an increase in the number of attendants and participants to our sessions. On our second session, we realized growth in the number of participants who came through to share their stories.
We also measure the effectiveness of our work through testimonies and reviews. There is nothing that makes me happy like seeing someone who attended our session/s having the courage to wear anything they like and feel absolutely confident and beautiful in their skin.
With our online community, it’s very easy to measure our effectiveness. For example, we can post a story of one of the warriors with a picture of themselves attached and once we see people open up about their own scars and skin disorder stories, we know that our message has been positively received.
The number of likes and shares each post gets is also a good indicator of the impact our organization has. Another way is when people from other countries who contact us to share their stories which indicates that our organization is serving its purpose.
Valentine, I understand to date you are funding Rock Scars. How do you plan to increase your income streams besides calling out for sponsors?
It is very difficult getting people to invest into your idea and vision, especially one that is something totally different and is based more on changing people’s lives than profit. That is why I resorted to self-funding the organization.
We are currently in the process of making a few Rock Scars items that will be for sale and help us raise funds so we can be able to travel across the continent to reach more warriors. Items will include, Rock Scars shirts, caps, fruit juices, and more exciting things.
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