My younger sister suffers from an acute mental disability. With the mental development of a young child, she has trouble controlling her emotions and her behavior can be erratic. I cannot describe the sacrifices my parents have made for my sister. It was primarily for her sake that my father requested a transfer to Germany, where he knew people would be more accepting. On a different continent, the life of our family also became different.
My parents began to smile again while taking pictures.
My sister learned how to express her feelings better.
I learned that my sister is just "different" from us, not "wrong."
Not all the people in my home country share the same feeling. Many of them feel that mentally handicapped people are less deserving of kindness, that people like my sister are nothing more than a burden on society.
Facing such prejudices almost every time I went out in public, I am determined to change people's perceptions, with the recognition that this sort of discrimination is intractably tied to society's prejudice against the poor, the elderly, and foreigners.
Today, I am widening the scope of my advocacy, working to trigger widespread social change. I will be touching the lives of my surroundings individually, increasing the awareness that everyone deserves the same "privilege" which many of us take for granted. Ultimately I will expand my efforts to the organizational level by building a foundation under my sister's name – honoring her, who shaped me as the person I am today.