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I bring glam where there is gloom

The last thing on the mind of someone suffering from a chronic illness such as cancer is pampering themselves. Rose Ntongondu, a make-up artist seeks to bring some beauty into their lives by giving such people a make-over

When 34-year-old Rose Ntongondu lost her mother three years ago, her grief drove her to finding a way of honouring women who are fighting the disease. “My mum did not die of cancer. She suffered a stroke after battling hypertension for 30 years.

Her death made me think of a way to appreciate women,” she said. She approached Nairobi Hospice to find out what she could do to change the lives of women, who were a majority of patients at the centre.

“Cancer is a terminal illness and it was obvious some were living just one day at a time due to obvious reasons. I wanted to add life to their days,” Ntongondu said.

Armed with her brushes, powders and lipsticks, the best way she knew how, she birthed Glam and Support. “I am a professional make-up artist and run Make Up By Rose and that was the only way I could give back to them.

It’s all I had in my hands,” she said. Nairobi Hospice welcomed her idea. “When we first started our annual event, we had about 50 patients, both men and the women and so far, we have had about 200.

We put it out to the public and got volunteers to come on board to support us,” she said, pointing at a Unity College stand. Glam and Support is held on Thursdays, which is when the patients meet.

“It is easier to hold it on Thursdays because not all of them can afford to make trips every other day of the week. It’s most convenient for them,” the mother of two said. Since beauty is an integral part of a woman’s life, Ntongondu sought to give them make-overs. “Every year, we get beauty schools to come on and we treat the ladies and men to well-deserved pampering,” she said.

Some of the patients at the Nairobi Hospice have both cancer and HIV/Aids. “These kind of conditions wear out the body and due to the chemo they go through, some have lost hair and their vibrancy.

They believe they are not as beautiful and we change that narrative, albeit for a day or week or month. It gives them strength to fight another day,”she says. Perspective is changed for the participants.

“The attention and total make-over puts a smile on their faces and that keeps us going. When they get their nails done, facials and choose wigs or weaves that they want, they light up with joy,” she added. When she hosts such an event, Ntongondu says that some of the patients get adopted. “Well-wishers offer to adopt a patient and they fund their medication and their upkeep.

Most of them do not have jobs so when they get adopted, we rest assured that they will indeed have food on the tables for their families,” said Ntongondu. Glam and Support has not been without its fair share of challenges.

“People shy away from talking about chronic conditions such as HIV/Aids and cancer and we probably do not reach as many as we’d want. It is an emotional yet physical issue that we need to learn how to address,” she said.

Owing to the fact that they are terminal illnesses, Ntongondu and the team have to deal with grief when a patient does not show up the next year. “You ask where is so and so and you’re told they’ve left and you are taken a back.

We are a family and we have a relationship. You cannot become an expert at dealing with grief. Loss is loss,” Ntongondu said. With her skill and initiative, Ntongondu hopes she will touch more lives.

“Not only by glamming them up, but also by getting more support financially and emotionally for the patients here and all around Kenya. No one asks to get cancer or become HIV positive. They are our family and we ought to come out and be a shoulder they can lean on,” Ntongondu concludes.

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