Mariana Ngombo: an extraordinaire story of overcoming and sucess
In this article (https://angodiva.com/en/um-vestido-e-um-milhao-historias/), where I was wearing a dress made by designer Mariana Ngombo I talked about how sometimes we wear clothes for vanity and sometimes we wear them mainly for what they represent. This is because every piece of clothing carries with it a story that begins long before it is made. Each piece of clothing carries with it dreams to be realized, hope in the fulfillment of these dreams, hard work to carry them out, persistence to overcome difficulties, dedication and love to do it in the best possible way and discipline to continue even when things don’t go accordingly. Furthermore, each piece of clothing also carries with it new opportunities not only for the person who makes them but also for those who help make the brand grow and at the same time realize their own dreams.
Although I have talked to Mariana a few times before, nothing prepared me for such an extraordinary story, inspiring and full of life lessons behind her brand. During these last few weeks we have been working on this article, Mariana took us (me, the photographer, the makeup artist and Vivi) into a world full of emotions. We cry, we laugh, we play, we talk, we had fun, but more than that we learned, we got inspired, we empowered ourselves, and we got a little richer than we were before we started working on this article. Therefore, today I invite you to take some time, like us to be inspired, empowered and enrich yourself a little more with Mariana’s story.
Like many Angolans during the civil war, Mariana’s parents emigrated to the Netherlands in search of security and a better future for their two daughters. Mariana was 3 years old at the time. Three months after she was living in a refugee camp, Mariana was involved in a serious fire accident, where 45% of her skin was totally burned: “on a day like any other 6 year old girl who also lived in the same refugee camp where we lived, invited me to play with her and I accepted. A few minutes later she lit a paper she threw at me. And since the type of clothing I was wearing was flammable, it was only a matter of seconds before I was completely on fire. My older sister, who at the time was 6 years old when she heard me scream came up to me to help me.
She tried to take off my dress, but I was already on fire. We ran to our house and when my father opened the door, in a fraction of a second he put the fire off, ripped my clothes off my body while my mother called the ambulance. The trip to the hospital took more than an hour. At the hospital, three doctors had to decide whether or not it was worth treating, my burns that were too severe. Of course, at the time (in 1991) such decisions were made on the basis of other facts. Medical technology was not as advanced as it is today. Luckily for me, the 3 doctors believed that there were chances of me surviving and they decided to treat me.“
Well, because of her scars I had already imagined they were due to a fire accident, but what I had imagined was nothing compared to what I was hearing. Trying to contain my curiosity and millions of questions that went through my mind, I decided first to find out how her recovery process was afterward: “The recovery process was very difficult. Especially for my parents who, after going to a new country looking for better living conditions for us, starting a new life like that with such a nightmare. This without speaking the language and unable to really express what they felt. I’m not a mother yet, but I can imagine it was very difficult for them. As for me, I suffered in total more than 35 surgeries.
At first, I had to stay for more than 6 months in the hospital and after that, I was allowed to go home on weekends. In this all the exchange of ligatures, the dressing was the most painful and having to do it every day was not easy. But thank goodness in Holland the health care system is well developed. I had the best doctors and the hospitals had the best equipment. I was in good hands. At first I had to re-learn to walk again in a special rehab center. And when I was five I started studying in a special school for children with physical disabilities until I finished high school. It was very gratifying because I was ready for the (normal) big world and all it had to offer. “
Well, she went after everything the world had to offer her, there’s no doubt about it. Divided between her passion for the fashion world and her passion for working with young people for better integration into society, she took a 3 years fashion course and recently graduated in social services from the University of applied sciences in Amsterdam. In 2015 she launched her clothing line, Designs By Mariana. “What started as a label for women’s clothing has grown a lot more than that. Since a few years ago we also have a men’s, children’s, home and accessories department. “She explained. Designs By Mariana is one of the best-known African brands here. Mariana has participated in some shows in Kenya, different art, and fashion exhibitions and has already had a physical store in the center of Beverwijk.
Besides her fashion career, she also works with young people and recently opened her YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/i5uNBshkons) to inspire others, especially young Africans living in the diaspora. But in addition to everything, Mariana also works since 2009 with young people and nowadays she manages a youth center for youth in the ages between 10 and 21 years, where she helps in talent development, to be part of the society and to give them tools while growing into adulthood. The fact that she did not allow herself to be overthrown by everything that happened to her makes her extraordinary, an example and a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to follow her/his dreams and for all of us in general. Mariana’s story not only teaches us that our future does not depend on what happens to us, but rather on what we have done regardless of what happens to us, but it also teaches us the value of true forgiveness.
There is nothing to forgive. She was only 6 years old, she was also a child. That was a terrible accident that I believe made two victims. Although I have never heard from her again, I wonder if she still knows what happened. If so, I hope she also has made peace with it. Otherwise, I would like to tell her that everything is fine. I do not hold any grudges against her and everything is fine with me.”
As I talked to her, I realized that she told me her story with enough peace, love, and lightness. Curious about how she felt about the girl, she said, “What do you mean? There is nothing to forgive. She was only 6 years old, she was also a child. That was a terrible accident that I believe made two victims. Although I have never heard from her again, I wonder if she still knows what happened. If so, I hope she also has made peace with it. Otherwise, I would like to tell her that everything is fine. I do not hold any grudges against her and everything is fine with me.” Still, a tear of emotion falls off when I think of her response, and at the same time, I am struck by such courage and kindness. Nowadays we live in a world where people hold grudges and seek revenge for the most insignificant things and there was someone who had every bit of right to be resentful, but extraordinarily everything she feels and conveys is love, understanding and lots of positive energy.
Obviously, because of that, I was curious and wanted to know what her secret was? How is it that after so much pain and still suffering the consequences of that accident she was able to forgive: “Someone told me one day that in that day God was with me in the fire and did not allow the flames to turn me to ashes. I also believe that I am a living testimony, a miracle of what God can do against all the negative things that happen in life. I believe it is not yet my time to leave this earth and I am here for a purpose! But I never believed that it was in God’s plan. They are things that happen in life as a result of man’s decision, but that God transforms them into something good, positive and often greater than ourselves. “She explained.
” I have very good memories of the gentle nurses and doctors, the good care I received and of the gaming room … ooh, my God, the gaming room was AMAZING. You can imagine coming to a new country as an economic refugee, we did not have much. I just started playing with a lot of things we did not have at home”.
I could not agree more with Mariana, I also strongly believe that we all have a purpose, the reason we were born and our greatest goal in life should be to discover that purpose and dedicate our lives to it. However one of the things I noticed in our conversation is that Mariana is also very optimistic by nature. Relaxed as she spoke of the accident, she included a big smile on her face the positive things that happened at the same time. That’s how she talked about the enormous pleasure she had playing in the children’s recreation rooms: “I have very good memories of the gentle nurses and doctors, the good care I received and of the gaming room … ooh, my God, the gaming room was AMAZING. You can imagine coming to a new country as an economic refugee, we did not have much. I just started playing with a lot of things we did not have at home. ” The lesson we can draw from this is enormous. Daily we lose the smile because of minimal problems. Mariana with this attitude shows us how much there is always something positive that we can choose to focus on, smile and take the positive energies necessary to overcome and continue.
I was impressed, inspired and could continue my conversation with her all day, but we had both a schedule to fulfill, we had to say goodbye, but not before asking her to leave a message for us: “never ask yourself why you cannot do this or that, ask yourself why you’re not doing it! It is true that it is not always easy, it was not easy for me either, but with my faith in God, my perseverance, my optimism and my father encouraging me, took me where I am today. Believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who elevate you. The sky is the limit, but most of the time we are the ones who limit ourselves.
Well, with nothing else to add, I end this article thanking Mariana (see you on top Queen) for giving me the privilege of sharing her story with you, to inspire you as I was inspired by it. Keep dreaming and fighting by the fulfillment of your dreams. God bless you all.