We’re delighted to congratulate ex-pupil Raisa Hassan, who has just graduated with a 2:1 BA in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of East London.
She has also just published her first book entitled Spotlight (A Way Forward), which is a collection of her poetry, screen writing and prose based on her personal experience of life as a disabled woman.
Raisa came to CPotential (or the Hornsey Centre as it was then called) from the age of three to seven.
We asked her to tell us more.
What did you most enjoy about the degree?
The degree at UEL helped me explore my feelings towards my disability. With this sort of degree, the content could never be considered ‘the wrong answer’ – I felt free. With both my book and poetry dissertation exploring life with a disability, I was able to be true to myself. It was very therapeutic!
What did you find most challenging and how did you deal with that?
Without a doubt, the most difficult thing about my degree was balancing education and the amount that I had to keep up with. Obviously, it takes me longer to complete work compared to someone without a disability – including the way I work. I had to write most of my work out by hand which is time-consuming, then I had to type it all up using a voice-activated device, which often didn’t do what I wanted it to do – every week for four years.
Obviously, stuff happens. It can be anything – from illnesses to accidents to supporting friends and sudden deaths.
Sometimes it was really hard to block out emotion but I knew that my grades were at stake. In all honesty, I have ‘snapped’ a few times when it became a bit too much. I always had to talk to myself afterwards, to say ‘RAISA, YOU HAVE GOT TO GET A GRIP!’ Luckily, there was always one person that I could rely on when things were really bad – my personal tutor, Dr Tim Atkins, who is really amazing and like a father to me.
What do you want to do next, what are your ambitions?
Now, this is a difficult question! First, I need to take a break from education ha ha! No, seriously, I just want to have some time to myself as I have been working to secure my education with the good grades tirelessly from the age of three.
I can’t wait to pursue swimming again (as I haven’t been in nine years!) and I’ve always wanted to go horse riding so I can’t wait to do that.
Some other things I would really love to do are: run my own poetry workshops for people with disabilities in London, go to a lot more poetry open mic nights and pursue a career in public speaking about disability and rights – in a way make disability ‘less awkward’ and show people the importance of disability awareness.
I’d love to publish some more books, whether this would be self-publishing them or using actual publishing houses. Perhaps I’ll have my own company too, I don’t know yet!
How would you describe your book and your writing?
Well, my book represents people with disabilities and the struggles they have to go through, but also represents the fact that they still have a life worth living – and the fact that that sort of life should be valued.
At times, it is brutally honest – I do swear a few times and, for me, that’s perfectly valid! My book is aimed at a mature audience – probably the minimum age I would say that could read my book is 14. At the same time, I don’t want to sound overly mean, inconsiderate, arrogant or bitter; I approach my work with the attitude of ‘this is how it really is’, if that makes sense.
What are you passionate about?
Above all, I’m passionate about disability and the concept and importance of empathy and intelligence. For me, it’s also important to love and respect difference. I’m sick and tired of the sympathy and often patronising attitudes towards disability – often the concept of intelligence connected to disability is written off but I truly believe that everyone has a talent – you just have to have the right support to find it.
At the end of the day, disability can strike anyone at any time. The more people who are educated about it earlier will face later challenges which will be, in some shape or form, easier to overcome. This sort of education can also be seen as a warning – but in a good way.
How did CPotential help you?
To be honest, I don’t know where to start! Obviously, the education was important but there was always a sense of respect and belief as regards ability, intelligence and individuality.
There was always a ‘you can do it’ attitude and, if you couldn’t, you would have to find your way around it in a unique way and that was okay too – no matter how small the task was. It’s the sort attitude that I’ve been able to continue in my daily life to this day and I plan to carry this attitude through to the future, whatever it may bring.
What would you say to current pupils at CPotential and to their parents?
Oh, wow! First of all, genuinely believe you will do well. You are your own person. Never give up. Progress, no matter how small, is always progress. Move forward. Don’t be afraid of disability, do not hide your disability and certainly do not be ashamed of it – disability is not a ‘curse’ – it is predominantly connected to accidents and genetics.
Don’t live in a life where you wish you didn’t have a disability – yes, it may have been different but your disability makes you, you. Why change that? You deserve a chance as much as everyone else.
Push yourself, but you will always know your limits: respect them. Even if you feel like it, no matter what, always remember that you are not alone. Ever.
If you really believe you can’t do something, it’s okay to ask for help but first you have to try. Parents should believe the same. Life is never easy but you should always try to do the best you can with what you are given. Love life.
- Raisa’s book Spotlight (A Way Forward)