My name is Mariana Ngombo. I was born in Luanda (Angola). Because my father wanted a better life for us, he did everything in his power to achieve that. At the age of 4 i came to live in the Netherlands together with my parents and my older sister. We were only 3 months in the Netherlands when I got involved in a severe fire accident. Back than we were staying in a refuge center. A girl that was 2 years older than me who always lived in that refuge center lit some kind of paper on fire and threw that at me. I was wearing all kinds of flammable clothes, so it was only a matter of seconds before I was standing in fire. My sister who is 2 years older than me and who was also playing outside heard me screaming. She tried to take off my dress, but when she couldn’t I ran home. Little did I know that when fire and oxygen get together you will get more flames. I ran to our house when my dad opened the door. He put out the fire and ripped off my clothes and my mom called the ambulance.
With an ambulance I was brought to the hospital where they are specialized with burnings. The ride to the hospital took more than 1 hour and later on I heard that I even slept a bit in the hospital. Arriving in the hospital 3 doctors had to decide whether they should or shouldn’t treat me because of the severe burnings. Back than in 1991 they made decisions based on other facts. Gladly they all believed that there was a chance for me to live so they all said yes. Due to my accident I lost 2 fingers and I’m covered for about 45% with burnings. Than the process of recovery, treatments & surgery started. Someone once told me that: “God was with me in the fire, that even the flames couldn’t turn me into ashes”. I also believe that I am a living testimony, a miracle of what God can do against all odds. I believe that it wasn’t my time yet to leave this earth and that I am here for a purpose!
I never believe that this was in God’s plan for me, but as things happen in life (as a result of man’s decision) He can still work things together for the good.
For my parents coming to a new country and starting of like this was like living in a nightmare. Not able to speak the language and not being able to express what you mean was really frustrating and difficult for them. I had to stay for more than 6 months in the hospital and after that i was allowed to go home in the weekends but in the beginning with help from the nurse that would come to help and show my parents how they needed to exchange my bandage. The exchange of bandages were really painful, so have to go through that every day was no joke.
I the beginning I couldn’t walk, so I had to learn to walk again in a special rehabilitation center. Because I already became 5 years old I also had to start with school. Where I was going for physical therapy they also had a special school for children whit a physical handicap. Eventually I stayed in this school for about 12 years and left when I got my high school degree. I was ready for the big world and all it had to offer. But let’s first go a bit back.
Growing up with burnings wasn’t always easy. Every year or every 2 years I had to go back to the hospital for surgery and all the free extra’s that came with it (read; bandage exchange, removing staples, infections, pain etc. ). But gladly I have stronger memories of the sweet nurses & doctors, the good care and the play room…oooh my God, the playroom was AWESOME. You can imagine coming to a new country as a economic refuge, we didn’t have much. Soo there I got to play with many things we did not have at home. I have had between 30 and 40 surgeries in my life. All had to do with skin correction and skin transplantation. People with burnings have really tight skin, so when growing up they need to make space in order for the body to feel better with less tension. Gladly I still had a lot of good skin, so I never needed donor skin from other people.
Till the age of 17 I needed to get plastic surgery to create more space within my skin.
After that I had the choice to do cosmetic surgery, and that’s what I did. There were still a few parts on my body that I did not like, whether it was the texture of my skin or the ugly scars that made me unhappy. Soo I still had a few surgeries at the age of 17 until now. My last surgery was about 3 years ago and my next surgery will be later this year. I still have some things that I would like to see different on my body, but maybe after this one I will say “It’s enough”. After a surgery I will be at least 3 weeks out of run, so it costs me a lot physically but also mentally. Most of the time I’m a patience person, but after surgery I can’t sit still (what doctors do advise me to be).
Leaving the safe and secure place in high school to chase my dreams in the big city was I think an even bigger step for the people around me than for myself. Many were afraid if it was the wise decision for me to go study “far” from home and on top of that to do fashion school. Fashion school was supposed to be a place where they most of the time judge you on your appearance and the way you dress. Apparently people attend to make things bigger than they are and luckily for me there were still people with brains waking around. I had 3 amazing years in fashion school and in some cases I was even more handy than others , despite the fact that I only have 3 fingers left on one hand.
In these 3 years I learned a lot about fabrics, creating your own patterns, tailoring but also how to walk on the catwalk and present your pieces.
After fashion school I studied social work at college because I wanted to have something more secure for the future. I also did this for 3 years and after that I worked for one year. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful by working with people, especially youth.
Recently I finished my bachelor Social work at the university of applied sciences in Amsterdam.
I’ve e been working as a youth worker since +/- 2009 and now I run a youth center together with my intern and volunteers.
You might be wondering if I still do something with fashion…? Yes, I do. I’m a part time fashion designer and a part time youth worker. In 2015 I started my clothing label “Designs By Mariana”.
What started off as a label for women’s clothing grew much bigger than that. Since a few years we also have a men, children, home & accessories department. Besides that I also like to get involved in social themes, inspire young woman (especially from the African diaspora) and be active when it comes to make the country that I live in more inclusive. I do this with my label but also with something that distracted from it, and that is my You Tube channel : Mariana Ngombo.
You might be thinking “she does a lot and where does she get the time from…?” Well when you do something you love and that gives you energy, it gives you the strength to go on.
And of course the road hadn’t always been easy, but with my faith in God, my perseverance, my optimistic mindset and my dad whispering words of encouragement, it got me where I am today.
Never ask yourself why you can’t do this or that, ask yourself why you aren’t doing it!?
The sky is the limit, but most of the time we limit ourselves to do and be greatness.
Soo my words to you, believe in yourself, surround yourself with people that push you to higher grounds and start doing!