Courage, strength and resilience are some of the words that instantly come to mind when I think about Carol Ng’ang’a. Carol was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013. At the time it was discovered, it had spread into her uterus and she made the decision to undergo a laparoscopy hysterectomy, an operation which led to her uterus been removed. She says that it was a personal decision that she admittedly knew would end her child-bearing. Throughout this incredibly difficult experience she realized how much the support and encouragement from her family kept her strong. This led her to found the Hold Every Lady in Distress Foundation (HELD Sister) as a way to offer support and care to cancer patients.
HELD Sister spearheads the fight against cancer by amplifying the need for prevention and supporting cancer patients in order to ease their journey. The foundation offers voluntary community service through which 170 people diagnosed with precancerous cells have been saved from cancer and in aggregate; the organisation has assisted 270 patients in accessing medical attention.
Her humble, honest and tireless efforts have seen her receive the Women Inspiring Change in Africa Award from Eco Bank in 2014, the Timeless Woman of Wonder (Health Category) Award in February 2016 and the Red Chilly Spiced Social Change Maker Award in 2016.
Meet the phenomenal woman who suffered a devastating diagnosis but has handled it with grace, resilience and strength.
C: What do you consider as your greatest achievement to date?
CN: What I would consider as my greatest achievement is being able to impact lives directly from my painful personal experiences. Through God’s grace, being a source of hope to so many people whose hope is diming is my greatest achievement.
C: What has your career path been like as you have navigated through your chosen field leading up to your current role/position?
CN: My Career (hmm), I need to think about this one! To be honest, I do not really know how to answer this question. Throughout my education, the word ‘career’ was a heavier term than it is today. I worked towards achieving a lot – I have always been a high achiever.
When I landed my first job as a field officer for a USAID youth funded program at Mercy Corps, I had huge ambitions of growing up the ladder. However little did I know that with God, it’s possible to skip the stairs from an entry level position at an NGO to founding and running one.
My career goal posts shifted the day I chose to help women via an NGO that I blindly founded. I say blindly because I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t necessarily know how I would achieve this. When I started HELD Sister Foundation, I had no idea how I would run it but I knew what I wanted to do through it, and that was to help men and women with cancer. My career goals shifted and what I thought was previously viewed as ‘’achievement’’ was redefined when I quit employment to help people who could not pay me back. Four years on and I have learnt so many lessons. I have failed, I have touched lives, I haven’t had any financial gain but I am the most fulfilled woman on earth and I would still pick this line of work over and over again given the chance!
C: What advice would you offer to young people on figuring out the balance between work, family life and social life?
CN: Do you. When you do you, you are in touch with the real YOU. You know what you are made of and therefore, you allow yourself to live a full life. You will be hard on yourself if need be and you will celebrate your smallest milestones hence building confidence in your mission, a mission that everyone around you will have no choice but to believe in. I always tell my mentees that the best gift you can give yourself is being YOU!
Finally I would say; stop rushing. Stop being in a hurry to nowhere. Take deep breaths, life is not an emergency and you have no control over your life. If you were in control, you would do away with what seem like misfortunes not knowing that they are meant to define YOU. For instance if I was to choose, I would not have chosen to be diagnosed with cancer..but little did I know that if that had happened, I wouldn’t be saying these words today.
C: What is your greatest piece of advice to the young upwardly mobile individual?
CN: Believe in you. Invest in You. Appreciate people, things and circumstances that push you to the next level. They are served in good and bad measure; people could be your cheering squad or your naysayers.
C: What is the greatest lesson/ nugget that you have picked up in life?
CN: Be resourceful and of good character; the rest will fall into place. Resources will always find your resourcefulness and should therefore not be a reason why you are not doing what you have always wanted to do. Most people who have ever done great things had NOTHING or VERY LITTLE when they begun. For a very long time, I viewed this the other way around. If you have resources and are not resourceful, you will only make very few steps before you fail miserably. However if you are resourceful and you find resources, you will build an empire. Talent, resources, knowledge and education may move you up the ladder, but character sustains you up there.
"The truth is I have from the very beginning listened to my instincts. All of my best decisions in life have come because I was attuned to what really felt like the next right move for me."
How many 29 year-olds do you know who head up the finance function of a multinational organisation overseeing a pool of countries, manage to find time to run an award- winning blog and run a mentorship program to inspire young people to pursue career and passions concurrently? Not too many I believe! See you next Tuesday where I will be introducing you to another phenomenal lady who fits this bill!