My name is Flavia. I am 29 years old and live in Kampala, Uganda. I was attacked in 2009 when I was in my second year of university.
I was the first person to come home one night. I heard somebody behind me. As I turned around, someone splashed acid in my face and ran off. I did not know what it was. It began to sting and hurt. I started crying, running around, taking off my clothes. Then I fell over, but I forced myself to get up and get help. I ran to the shop next door. The little son of the shop-owner stood there in shock. People kept crowding around me. Then a good family friend saw me and drove me to hospital.
It only slowly sank in that I was really badly off. I was angry, sad, depressed. I was crying all the time. I missed what I had looked like. I did not want to accept that I would look like this for the rest of my life. My family and friends being there for me helped a lot. I spent seven months at hospital.
We don‘t know who it was. I don‘t have any proof. I really wanted to ask the person who did it: What did I do to you? But I have stopped thinking about it.
At the beginning I did not dare to leave the house. Then, when I started going out, I was scared when somebody was behind me. I could not go anywhere alone for a long time. I kept hiding my face for many years. First with a scarf, then I got a wig. I did not want any scar to show. Now I have accepted that people will stare. Recently I started to go out without a scarf. This is me after all. Even if I cover the scars they are still there. People just have to accept me the way I am. And I actually love myself now. I look in the mirror, have my photo taken, put on make-up. It has taught me to appreciate inner beauty more, even in other people. So I am trying to be proud of what is in my heart.
I helped out at a friend‘s modeling school teaching communication. If my friend had asked me some years back, I would have said no, how can I be around models! But I am not scared any more. I get my confidence from the fact that I have this knowledge that they need.
The other thing that keeps me busy is salsa dancing. It is my passion. First a friend taught me in private. But then he took me to a social night. I hid and only watched. I thought who would want to ask me to dance. With time I started making friends. They danced with me and I became good at it. I seem to make friends easily. If you are an acid survivor and keep to yourself, people also tend to keep away. But if you are open to them, you make it easy for them to feel comfortable.
I have no pain now, just scars. I even forget that I look different. I feel like I am back to the Flavia I was or an even better one. I am happy.
These days I speak a lot about my experience on my facebook page and I get so many likes and comments. People are supportive in a good way. It helps me heal. There are so many things I have overcome and I feel I need to share them with the world. But sometimes I just need people out there to know whatever they are going through that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is nothing so bad that anyone can’t get over it. I also want people to get involved, to know what goes on in the survivors’ lives. We want to do campaigns, we want to get the government to get involved to restrict the sale of acid. We really want them to prevent these attacks. I have started a project with a few close friends and we are organising a charity show with hope of raising funds for the organisation to support acid victims And for this I will use my passion for dance to raise the money. So for now apart from being a professional counsellor, I am supporting survivors like me in whatever way possible.