Yvonne Okwara’s journey in the media business started at KBC where she hosted the popular ‘children variety show’ at around 10 years old. Currently she works at one of the big three TV stations, KTN as a news anchor and the host of the hard-hitting night talk show ‘Checkpoint’.
But despite her many years in the media and her prolific career, Yvonne’s private life has been fiercely guarded as the whole idea of putting her life out there is not in line with her personality.
However, she was in rare form recently when she opened up about her brother Albert Okwara in her piece titled “MY JOURNEY WITH ALBERT OKWARA.”
In the piece she said that she has a brother living with a disability as he is deaf-blind just like famous America author, lecturer and activist Helen Keller.
But she has been hesitant to talk about in the past due to the reactions she gets from talking about her 50 year old brother.
She revealed that whenever she talks about her brother’s disability, she has earned “pity, shame, endless questions about religion and traditional curses, and finally isolation.”
But she had to finally talk about it because she hopes her story will help someone.
Here is part of her post “In the 60s, while expectant, my mother contracted German Measles. It has no symptoms. By the time she was giving birth to her first born son, there were complications. Mental retardation and deaf blindness started to set in. She tried everything, no door was un-knocked, multiple surgeries, consultations. She talked to every doctor in the country. All of them, including, the professors, told her they had travelled far and wide and had NEVER seen anyone like my brother. That he would not live beyond his 5th birthday. Or his 10th. Nor his 12th. Albert Okwara is still here! 50 years later! What a journey it has been. Friends have fallen along the way; those that could make the choice did so and exited our lives. Called it a curse. To the entire community! I won't name names but he knows himself!
The world of disability is a lonely one! The road has been lined with tears, pain, dashed hopes. But it has also had wonderful lessons that have made me who I am today! Let me explain, Albert is deafblind. He does not see, speak or hear. His perception of the world has been through his primary caregiver, his mother. My mother! We have cared for him, fed him, clothed him and bathed him for close to 5 decades now. Today the round-the-clock care continues. Many times I have asked myself how different life would be if he had just one of the senses. What would he say to me? About my work? Life choices? Wish he could have been the big brother to shield me from the bullies. Stand behind him when those people in my neighbourhood where I grew up said nasty things (you know who you are). Wished he could have walked me down the aisle. Instead, it was the other way around. I had to grow up fast. Be the 'big sister'. I bathed him, clothed him and fed him and protected him from the world that has such high levels of 'perfection' that it shuns anyone who seems 'less than perfect'. Sometimes I mourn my lost childhood but it was for a good cause. For a man who is a pure. For that is what Albert is. He has seen no evil, heard no evil and uttered no evil. Literally! His soul is pure. No ill will. No malice. And that is why I will fight to the death for him. Sacrifice everything for him. It is my mother to whom I am forever grateful. She could have abandoned him. As some have done. She stayed with him. Nurtured him. Paid the price, sacrificed good jobs in the private sector, opting for a job in the civil service that had flexible hours to allow her care for 'my son' that is how she lovingly refers to him. She put all relationships aside because she did not want distractions from the job she believes was given to her by God! Through her I have seen the true meaning of unconditional love.
You see it is hard to love someone who can't show you the love in return. Hard to care for someone who can't say thank you. But it is a most rewarding experience. My mother has done it without ever tiring! Ever complaining." she wrote.
Before continuing with "So why am I speaking now? Because I hope my story will help someone. I don't have a plan yet for how I am going to use my voice to speak for those who can't but I am finally brave enough to start with this one step.
To parents, siblings of persons with disability, stay the course. We have done it for 50 years. You can too. For those that judge mothers, walk a mile in their shoes first. To fathers who stand by their children with disability, I applaud you! For anyone who just wants to talk, I am here; if for nothing else, just to listen to you. I have been there, I know!
For a start, in this new phase of my outreach, I have reached out to friends to help me. One such person is Daddy Owen. So join us on Saturday for the Malaika Awards that celebrates and honours those who are making a difference in spite of their challenges. It will be a celebration! Not a pity party!”