Help Miss Kenya USA 2014 Kora Hardy Become the Next Miss Africa USA
Kora Hardy has always been a private, soft-spoken person. She never anticipated taking part in a pageant until now.
â€œMany people who know me might not have expected me to participate in this, but I believed that my passion was worth a large audience,â€ Hardy told Mwakilishi.com contributor Jessie Karangu.
The Nyeri native, winner of this yearâ€™s Miss Kenya USA, is in contention for Miss Africa USA 2014. She is running on the platform of spreading more awareness in Kenya about autism, a complex disorder which affects brain development.
At four years of age, Hardy immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland from Kenya alongside her family. She quickly learned the struggles of being a Kenyan-American.
â€œHaving a strict Kenyan mom and living in a â€œlaid-backâ€ society where it seemed I was the only one following these â€œrulesâ€ that my mother enforced was difficult to explain to my friends,â€ says Hardy.
But as she grew older, she also grew wiser as the saying goes. Hardy, now 28, is grateful for those lessons which she still carries to this day.
â€œI realized that I was different than many of my peers and that I belonged to such a beautiful culture and community. I appreciated who I was and understood those â€œrulesâ€ were actually values and disciplines being taught to ensure my success in the future,â€ Hardy said.
Hardy graduated from St. Francis University with a B.A. in psychology and has also received her Masterâ€™s degree in Moderate and Severe Disabilities from Simmons College. For two and a half years, she worked in Abu Dhabi, UAE as a therapist helping local students diagnosed with autism.
Hardy was inspired to focus on autism awareness in Kenya after explaining what her job as a therapist entails to her cousin.
â€œShe made a comment to the extent of â€˜wow, you have so much to offer families in terms of treatment and supportâ€™,â€ Hardy said.
Hardy believes that diagnosis is a major area of weakness within the Kenyan community. Cultural misconceptions also donâ€™t help the progress of African children with disabilities.
â€œAll societies want to produce citizens that positively contribute to their society and many may feel that these individuals cannot do this. Those in power should invest time, proper training, education and awareness. But I am an avid believer that we all posses the â€œpowerâ€ in making changes and progress,â€ Hardy said.
Hardy hopes that winning Miss Africa USA will help her garner more influence in bringing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy to rural parts of Kenya for children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Many autistic children do not have the ability to decipher good and bad behavior. This therapy teaches the difference based on a system of rewards and consequences.
According to studies conducted at UCLA in 1987, many children who received ABA treatment learned how to behave more appropriately. ABA therapy is a form of treatment which has been active for many years in the United States and if Hardy gets her wish, itâ€™ll also become more active in rural Kenya.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t care if people know my name or my face but if I affect one life in my efforts to make the world around us a better place,â€ Hardy told Jessie.
The Miss Africa 2014 Pageant Finals will take palce in August.
- By Jessie Karangu. Jessie is a Journalism student at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Mwakilishi.com contributor.