Founder of Born to Rise, Montreal change-maker Aiesha Robinson encourages healing through self-expression.
BY SARAH FOX
Aiesha Robinson is familiar with the spectrum of bullying; she has been bullied, she has bullied and she has experienced varying degrees of unkindness in between.
And then it appeared. A white dot on her thumb at age 18. The beginning of vitiligo, a disease that strips skin of its pigment. To Aiesha, the diagnosis felt heavy with the possibility of discrimination. Having been exposed to the spectrum of bullying already, she feared her changing exterior would change everything else in her life—for the worse.
When worries escalated to feelings of hopelessness, she confided in her older brother, Jamie. With his help, she began to glimpse the merits of self-love and positivity. Soon, she believed she could persevere; she could even help others overcome hardships through learning from her own obstacles. The first step was finding strength within herself to face this new chapter in her life. “Once you have self-acceptance, you can take on the world,” Aiesha affirms. “Be your own best friend. Your happiness comes from within.”
From this new found positivity came Born to Rise, a non-profit organization that helps empower young people to overcome hurdles in their lives through confidence and kindness—towards oneself and others.
Dedicated to fostering acceptance, the organization combats bullying and builds self-esteem via workshops led by inspirational speakers. (It’s no surprise, the founder is a Tony Robbins fan.)
Sharing her personal story has helped Aiesha find her way through difficult times, and now, through Born to Rise, she’s inviting others on stage to share their stories and find healing, too. The narratives, like the hardships, vary from the loss of a childhood to coping with an illness. Similarly, forms of expression differ person to person. Whether it’s through song, spoken word or straight-up storytelling, for Aiesha, the goal is to “get down to the raw and gritty” and combat judgment and discrimination.
Together, with both youth and adults, she’s assembling a community with a built-in support system. “People come out to share because they want to inspire others,” she says. “[To] let them know not to give up… it’s never too late.”
Aiesha wants more Canadians to embrace the power that acceptance can have on their daily lives no matter what the obstacle, read on to learn how.
Aiesha’s five tips on how to evolve self-love into change-making:
- “Your self-care comes first.” As Aiesha sees it, being a community change-maker starts with self-reflection. Before she was ready to start making an impact on the lives of others, she needed to assure she was taken care of. “To give, you have to make sure you’re good in yourself.”
- “Get a mentor.” When she saw life coach Rashida Geddes speak at an event for the Montreal Community Cares Foundation—an organization working to educate and empower local youth—she knew Rashida was the person to help her reach her goals. Now, as she says, “She’s helping me plan my career.” Mentorship has long played a role in Aiesha’s life, dating back to her original mentor: big brother Jamie, “he really helped change my mind set.” Thanks to him, she learned the power of being surrounded by inspirational people.
- “Be real with yourself.” Aiesha believes in the importance of protecting oneself. Sometimes, it’s possible for things to build faster than you’re ready for, steady growth by accommodating your feelings first. She speaks from experience. “I’ve had so much love from the community that I think I’m still kind of dealing with how I want to expand and carry on Born to Rise.”
- “Use your platforms for good.” Aiesha uses her Facebook and Instagram in a way that benefits her personally and professionally. “I read a lot of inspirational quotes,” she says. She also uses social channels to unfurl stories of inspiration, while simultaneously seeking opportunities to share her own journey in ways that might inspire others.
- “Pinpoint the message you want to share.” Developing a strong and sound mission was integral to Aiesha’s success when establishing Born to Rise. She stayed true to her message, and people took notice. “People start coming to you because they follow what you’re doing,” she says. “They support it.”