When Giving Up is Not an Option

Clementine Bihiga was born in 1986. She is an inspirational speaker and the author of “Happily Broken: Discovering Happiness Through Pain and Suffering”.

When Clementine was eight years old her family was forced to flee their home in Rwanda.  The Genocide and Civil war of 1994 killed almost 1 Million people in 3 months. Clementine and her family lived in multiple refugee camps and settlements before they were admitted to the USA in 1999 as political refugees.

Clementine who faced many life and death situations at a young age. Clementine not only grew up in refugee camps,  she found herself waking up among the dead, she was a victim of bullies in high school and she lost her daughter in utero.  Clementine has turned her tragic past into a positive calling by inspiring others to never give up.

Sometimes as humans, we are so quick to give up.

How many times have we been turned down and decided to stop?
How often do we take rejection as a sign that it’s not meant to be?
Seek others’ approval before running after our dreams?
Feel defeat because things are not going our way?
As a refugee, I started facing rejection at a very young age. For starters, I fled my country when I was eight years old and had to fend for myself when my parents disappeared for a period of 2 weeks. When I eventually reunited with our parents, my naive self, thought I was going back home to Rwanda.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, we went to live in refugee camps where we faced death right in the eyes every day.

In these camps, malaria, cholera, typhoid, etc. claimed over half of the refugees there. We would wake up every day and find ourselves surrounded by dead bodies. At this point, l felt like life wasn’t worth living. This was too much for my little 8-year-old brain and body to handle.

Fear was my best friend.

One day I went to Lake Kivu to fetch water and wash a shirt my mother had bought me. I had to lay on a “log” as an anchor so that I could swim towards the shirt (I couldn’t swim) and when I made the small leap so that I could grab my shirt, the log turned and I saw that it was actually a dead body.

There was not enough room to bury bodies during the genocide, bodies were being thrown in the lake. We used this water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, dishes and bathing.

Life wasn’t fair. I wanted to give up.

When my family eventually got to the U.S.A., I was bullied in high school for being “different.” Every day, I would want to quit going to school because I had suffered so much. It felt like life was not giving me a break.

In my adult life, I lost a daughter when I was 27 weeks pregnant. No one could explain why I lost her. I was told it’s like getting into a car accident. I felt lost and angry and many more emotions. After this, I really wanted to give up.
But even with all these life-shattering experiences, giving up was not an option.

I had to be resilient. Resilient for my young son, resilient for my family, resilient for my country and resilient for the world. I want to make my mark and leave this world a better place for future generations.

What did I do to change the course of my life?

I put myself through college. I was active on campus.  My public speaking journey took off, and I still was able to graduate with a master’s degree  (3.9 GPA).

I wrote a book about my journey. I hope that a tired soul, one who is exhausted in this life, one who needs a break, one that’s on the edge of giving up, will pick up my book, hear my story and decide to keep pushing forward.

How many people are saying NO to you?
Are tired of your bills and are just stressed out?
Do you have a teenager that’s out of control and are you ready to throw in the towel?
Can’t get those sales numbers high enough for your manager?
Can’t get your business off the ground? Going through a health crisis?
How many times have you wanted to give up and tell yourself “I Can’t?”
Next time you want to give up, remember my story and say to yourself “If that 8-year-old girl can do it, so can I.”

Yes. You Can.  Never Give Up!

Your family depends on your resilience. Your business depends on your resilience.

Humanity depends on your resilience.

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I was a BlogHer 2016 VOTY Honoree


Photo Credit: Rod Waddington via Compfight cc

Categories: FeaturedWomen's Issues + Awareness

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Clementine Bihiga

Clementine Bihiga is an inspirational public speaker and the author of "Happily Broken: Discovering Happiness Through Pain and Suffering". At the age of eight, Clementine and her family were forced to flee their home in Rwanda due to the Genocide and Civil war of 1994 which killed almost a million people in 3 months. Clementine and her family lived as refugees in multiple refugee camps and settlements before they were admitted to the USA in 1999 as refugees. Clementine who faced many life and death situations at a young age including living in refugee camps and waking up among the dead, being bullied as a high school student and losing a daughter, has turned her tragic past into a positive calling of inspiring others to never give up. When Clementine climbed on a "log" in lake Kivu trying to rescue a shirt taken by the waves and finally realizing it was a dead body, she could have given up. When she was almost beaten to death by a motorist on her way home, she could have given up. When she woke up among dead bodies claimed by Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera, etc. she could have given up hope. When she got to the USA and was bullied in high school for being different every single day, she would have quit and given up. Life was unforgiving for Clementine, but she pressed on. Clementine is a prolific linguist who speaks 5 languages, she is actively involved with many organizations such as the Student Leadership Council, World Youth Alliance, the United Nations Agents of Change, the Human Rights Committee, The Student Achievement in Research and Scholarships and the Student Advisory Committee for Foreign Discrimination. Clementine was also selected to be on a panel of the Africana Studies at the Stander Symposium and a panel on International Discrimination. Clementine was able to work as a Campaign Fellow for the United WayShe and intern at the New York State Attorney General's Office. While still in college. After college, Clementine and her husband Chris, who she met in a refugee settlement in Kenya were married. They became proud parents of a son in 2011. As a full-time mother and a full-time employee in Healthcare sales, Clementine decided to also get her Masters Degree. She accomplished this in one year and graduate with a 3.9 GPA with a Masters in Public Administration in HealthCare Administration and also earned a promotion at work for exceeding her sales goals by 160% the same year! She can be seen speaking at many conferences and groups on topics of Self-esteem, Resilience, Working Together, Bullying and Transforming Pain into Happiness

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