Neurodiversity is a concept where differences in brain function, such as dyslexia or the autistic spectrum, should not be seen as flaws but rather normal variants of brain function, and advocates against the stigma surrounding neurological conditions.
Irvine Lights interviewed Faith Ajanaku, founder of one of the incubation organizations from Irvine Lights’ Beyond project called Modern Divergence. Modern Divergence is a nonprofit organization that speaks out for neurodivergence through podcasts, mentorship programs, and sharing their viewer’s stories.
Faith: Personally, I think of Modern Divergence as a baby between me and my friends who started it. On my part, I wanted it to focus on mental health and the stigma, because when I was 13, I was diagnosed with depression, and it was just a really bad time. My friends and family all stigmatized it and they didn’t really get it.
From that I started noticing how people take topics such as mental health and turn them into memes or things to joke about and don’t take it seriously and there's so many myths and so much stigma, stuff that people don’t understand. I wanted to focus on that aspect and Maxine wanted to add the developmental aspect with autism and other different types of health. And then lastly, my friend Maham, who is our third co-founder, wanted to focus on patients, and how they're being treated in hospitals.
So we added in and combined all of our ideas into advocating for neurodivergence, because we don’t think that there's one certain way that your brain should function.
Definitely, starting an organization is not easy. So we definitely do encounter a lot of things every single day in a way. Just growing and getting more members, editing our podcast. And trying to keep the energy alive in our group chat on discord, trying to reach out to more people and press to get more opportunities, finding ways to help.
Part of our mission is to reach out to hospitals and mental health facilities to help patients there, but because of COVID-19, hospitals are so busy we haven't been able to leave quarantine to go and help patients. That’s something we will be trying to find a way to combat since we haven’t been able to achieve that because of the situation.
There was one day where I was chilling, working on the website. And I got this email from somebody and they thanked us for helping them. And I was like “what?” I was surprised because it wasn't something that we thought would happen, helping someone and making them feel better through our organization. They said “You guys really helped me personally,” and they also shared their story.
That’s how we created the “Your Stories” page, as a way to collect all those stories of people who wanted to share their experience and their journey through our platform. So that was something that keeps coming back to me. I can't stop forgetting about how we were actually making an impact. I’m literally tearing up just thinking about it.
Honestly, it's been really amazing. We knew that having the status would be super important because it helps you gain credibility and lets you apply to a bunch of grants, and the opportunity is so cool because we have a lot that we want to do but we don't have the money or the time to focus on filing for three months, paying $600 and everything.
It was super amazing, such a blessing to meet Shrey. He helps us out a lot too, like if we're looking for podcasting equipment or if we need any help with the website, he’s always been there. It's amazing because he’s incubating but we've also grown close as friends as well.
Check out their website here, and follow their Instagram @moderndivergence!
By: Olivia Cai