Over one billion people in the world are living with a disability. That makes individuals with disabilities the largest minority in the world.
Living with a disease or disability while being a college student can undoubtedly be frustrating at times. Trying to make friends can nearly feel impossible, especially if being consistently asked questions like, “why aren’t you drinking” or “why are you going to bed so early?”
College students battling disease or disability yearn for acceptance and support. Although there is a lot of support for mental health, race, etc., there’s nothing out there for physical diseases.
Out of that need, Bella Soul, 501(c)(3), was born. I, now an alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, really struggled through my first few years of college. I was one of the first individuals to ever be diagnosed with Posterior Nutcracker Syndrome, a rare kidney disease where the renal vein is anatomically displaced and compressed by the spinal cord and aorta.
The idea of creating Bella Soul came to me one night in my dorm room, lying in agonizing pain while listening to my friends socialize in a nearby room. I felt as though I was “missing out on ‘living’,” which made my pain even worse. At the time, there was no national or campus organization devoted to connecting individuals struggling with physical disease or chronic illness. I was tired of feeling alone with no one to relate to, so I decided to be proactive about it.
I started a blog to try to connect college students battling disease or disability, which then blossomed into its current incarnation as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization: Bella Soul.
Bella Soul serves as a support system and educational resource for college students living with chronic health problems or medical conditions. Not only does the organization offer mental support, but Bella Soul also provides financial aid in the form of scholarships to students battling college tuition and medical bills.
Bella Soul strives to connect students in similar medical situations and to put an end to the feeling of loneliness in college. The organization encourages students living with disease or disability to share their experiences and advice by social networking. Ultimately, Bella Soul’s purpose is to help young adults feel comfortable and in control of their bodies, regardless the circumstances the students may find themselves in.
This past year we have given away 7 scholarships. We have a chapter in TN, WI, IL, TX, and NY. We have been integrated in various campus disability resource centers around the world, including Harvard University, Duke University, and Brown University.
What I have learned in this process is to NEVER give up. It took four years with emailing several individuals EVERYDAY, having many individuals saying my idea was stupid, and having many people say I couldn’t do it. It takes time, but as long as you are passionate and believe in yourself there is nothing you can’t do, I mean nothing!