Meet the Neighbors

Meet Dr. Ninda, the Global Citizen, Marathoner, & Model

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Name: Ndinda Rebekah Ngewa

Occupation: Gender Advocate & Health Disparities Researcher/Global Citizen

Education: PhD-Preventive Health Care & Lifestyle Medicine (Loma Linda University), MPH (California State University-Fullerton)

Country of Origin: Kenya/ Nigeria

Current Neighborhood:  Philadelphia, PA

City/State: Pasadena, CA

Number of years in the U.S.: 19 years

My immigrant experience gives me a chance to rewrite Africa’s history, to live past the frustrations of ignorance about Africa and Africans, and seize the opportunity to educate. I can relate to what Voltaire said: “Prejudices are what fools use for reason”. I consider myself to be a child of the world. Born to missionary parents, a Kenyan dad and Nigerian mom who met in Canada and raised their three daughters both in the U.S. (Pennsylvania & California), and in Kenya.  Growing up as a missionary kid involved living in the “United Nations” of sorts from having an Indonesian Pediatrician, American-Canadian and Tanzanian best friends, Scottish, Liberian, Kenyan, and Zambian youth group leaders to name a few. I thought these experiences would prepare me for an easy transition coming back to the U.S for high school.

I never had to struggle with what my identity was until I arrived in the U.S. for the second time. Growing up in Philadelphia as a child did not present any struggles because of the inborn naiveté and child-like optimism and acceptance of everyone. Confusion always arose with having parents from two different sides of the continent of Africa. Being in the U.S., I was seen FIRST as a foreigner— I stood out in high school by people just looking at me even before I uttered a word; they would typically ask whether I was from the Islands. For some reason any other non-African American “Black” was thought to be Jamaican or from Trinidad. I would say I am from Kenya in Africa, they would make note of my British-African accent as they called it, and ask the A to Z questions about Africa from the limited lens of what is portrayed by National Geographic or the Travel Channel. A few would laugh, others would sneer not knowing what to expect. I did not have a problem blending in, but I was still marked as the foreigner who to their surprise, was always at the top of the class, receiving honors for French, Mathematics, English to name a few. To say that some of them were perplexed by my academic achievements would be an understatement.

Even with the highs and lows of being an immigrant in the U.S., I have been blessed to enjoy a well-rounded experience. Being able to pursue my passion for medicine, marathoning, and modeling (the 3 M’s as I like to call it). In the health arena, while shadowing doctors, I did not see many that looked like me. As a pre-medicine major in college, only 3 other female students who looked like me were in all my core classes, and we naturally gravitated towards each other. As a long distance runner, no one thought less of me because they automatically assumed that given my Kenyan heritage meant I would have that edge and will blow everyone else out of the water. With modeling, and having a name like Ndinda, I was thought to be so exotic and people often forgot I was also an immigrant.

Through the years, I have had the rude awakening that not everyone will be in my corner, and there a few who will blatantly make me feel like my dreams, hopes and desires are impossible to achieve. What I was recently asked in regards to my plans to graduate on time was, “Isn’t that ambitious?” The beauty of being resilient and having an amazing support network is having the privilege to brush off negativity, staying in motion, and realizing that Dr. Andy Balwin’s quote rings true every time:  “When someone tells you it can’t be done, it is more a reflection of their limitations, not yours” .

I have turned the “three strikes” (being Black, female, and an immigrant) around and transformed them into passion for health, humanity, and life. I have made it this far in life because of the values my parents instilled in me, and honing in on the value of especially staying true to myself, and not losing a sense of who I am. I want to be seen as a human being who has passions, expertise, and determination to make a difference in the lives of others. I do not have to prove my worth to anyone, as long as I know who I am, and secure in the calling God has placed in my life. I not only dream, but live out my full potential and dare to do the impossible.

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