Thabelo Makgashana was barely seven years old when he realised he was different, and started isolating himself because his peers in primary school called him names and others feared him because of misconceptions about his condition – albinism.
Now aged 26, Makgashana is an HIV/AIDS peer educator at the Tembisa Healthcare Centre who no longer lives in isolation but rather comfortably in his own skin after accepting that he is more than just his skin.
"Growing up was quite a challenge because people fear what they don't understand, but the moment I accepted my difference people warmed up to me and that was an opportunity to show them that the only difference between them and me was the colour of my skin," Makgashana said.
September is commemorated as Albinism Awareness Month.
As an HIV/AIDS peer educator, he visits close to 36 taverns in Tembisa educating people on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Interacting with people requires confidence, which is a characteristic he has built through the years.
"Parents play a huge role in helping one gain confidence. Tell your children what to expect from the outside world. Explain to them why they look different and go through the journey with them on how to accept and take care of themselves," Makgashana advised parents raising children with albinism.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition in which the body does not produce enough melanin - the chemical that is responsible for eye, skin and hair colour. Because of the lack of pigmentation, the affected person has very pale skin, hair and eyes.
While parents play a huge role in boosting one's self-confidence, organisations such Bob90 and the Bino's - which runs in the City of Ekurhuleni - offer support to people with albinism by boosting their confidence and unleashing their talent through performance arts. They use edutainment in the form of a choir and theatrical performances to highlight the increasing scourge of attacks and the enormous threats and difficulties faced by people living with albinism in South Africa.
Those wishing to learn more about the condition, to offer support or to be a part of the support group can contact Bob90 on 073 712 7232 or email him on .