On June 25th 2011, Steve Hargadon, founder of the Vitiligo Friends Network and Ogo Maduewesi, founder of VITSAF, officially launched the first ever World Vitiligo Day. One of the key aims when formulating the event, was to raise awareness of Vitiligo that affects just 1% of the world’s population (around 50 million people worldwide). Fast-forward five years and World Vitiligo Day is an internationally recognised event that brings together thousands of people who have something uniquely in common.
Having an official day that celebrates the beauty in our patches is an incredible breakthrough. The last event on June 25th which was held in Washington, was an upbeat celebration attended by a few hundred. The campaign launched alongside the global event was ‘walk in our shoes’ which asked that family, friends, colleagues and those with Vitiligo, to wear a temporary white tattoo on an exposed area of the body in hope that it would raise curiosity and encourage people to ask questions. The overall idea was for people to recognise what its like to be stared at when something about you looks different.
So, with the 25th June very much set in concrete, why has World Vitiligo Day become such an important date in the calendar…..
WVD makes you realise where we are NOW…..
Twenty-four years ago when I was a vulnerable 10-year-old girl; I was convinced I was the only one in the world who had Vitiligo. I very rarely came across anyone who looked like me and so my awareness of those across the globe that were also affected, was non-existent. Social networking didn’t exist; neither did meet up groups or events that would bring everyone together. There used to be a huge social stigma with being different. You were highly likely to be judged, ridiculed and thought upon with sympathy because you didn’t conform to the norm. Now with social media changing the way we communicate and present ourselves to the world, more and more people are embracing their patches in the photos and stories they share. The forums and groups are encouraging and positive, proving that we too, can be just as comfortable in our skin.
WVD is more than just bringing people together…
All the planning, organising and liaising brings together an agenda that provides a significant opportunity to raise awareness. Explaining what Vitiligo is to those who are guilty of staring and making comments. Cutting out the ‘what is it?’ questions. The curious questions that lead people to believe it’s the result of being burned. Having adults and children understand that it isn’t life threatening or contagious, which is a common question (and myth!) that often gets asked. It’s an opportunity to talk about the psychological effects and the solutions and build around improving the quality of life, ones self esteem and confidence.
WVD is an opportunity to learn and feel confident about your skin…
Being amongst a group of people whereby you share something unique in common is incredibly empowering. The energy levels are often high and you end up soaking up the incredibly positive atmosphere. A group where you feel a real sense of belonging can often make you feel comfortable about opening up and sharing your journey, however difficult. It also allows you to look at yourself from a different perspective especially when you see others who are confident in their skin. Seeing others can have a real impact and eventually have you feel more accepting of your own…..
Plans are already underway for the 2017 event which will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with the agenda likely to feature tips on applying makeup, people led stories, experiences and testimonials and expert advice from Dermatologists on the latest global research. I’d love to make it! If not, I’m happy to wait until London becomes the hosting nation…
Have you ever attended a world Vitiligo event?