Short-listed candidate for the Youth Achievement Competition
Thanks to the internet I have been able to develop into who I am now. Actually I have experienced two special events in my life thanks to the internet. I’ll start with the success of my own website and then the love story of Koen and me.
The success of my website
I was born with a benign tumor in my face. Everywhere I go, I get the same questions and remarks: “Have you been to the dentist? What happened to your cheek? “. I have never liked to talk about my illness and certainly not with strangers who dare to ask these brutal questions.
When I was 12, I started making a website. On this website I explain who I am, what I do, what my illness entails and the implications it brings along. The purpose of my website is primarily to inform people about my illness. When once again someone comes to me with the question, “what I have,” I reply, “just look at my website: www.wilmawestenberg.nl”. Nice and easy!
Through my website I have learned to accept my illness; I can tell my story on the Internet and I have received many positive messages from (unknown) people. In 2010 I even won the ‘Gouden @penstaart’, which is the prize for ‘best website for children made by children. After winning the ‘Gouden @penstaart’ I was invited for some important activities: I was asked for example to join the DigiRaad (a Youth Panel in the Netherlands, focusing on safer internet for young people). I had two discussions with HRH Prince of Orange on the issue of “internet safety”. In addition I participated in the Sigur.Info Summer School last July in Romania.
Besides being active on the internet, I have been asked to participate in big events. For example, last November, I told my story on the stage of TEDxYouth Amsterdam. My message was: “Make your weakness a strength.” I’ve also already been on national TV a few times. Finally, I am nominated for ‘Young person of the year ‘. On 20 December I will hear if I have become ‘Young person of the year’ and therefore if I’ve been able to complete the most impressive performance ‘last year’.
Since elementary school I am active on the internet. I always played games and also chatted quite a lot. When I was 12, I got to know Koen on the internet. We both played the same game and started chatting. We had more and more contact and added each other on MSN.
After two years of much online communication, we wanted to meet each other in real life. At that point, I was already in love with Koen. When I was 14, we met for the first time. Koen was 15. Since my parents didn’t know Koen, I was not allowed to meet him just anywhere. However, Koen was allowed to come to my house, so my parents could get to know him first. On 30 November 2008 Koen came to our house. Since then we are in a relationship.
We are now together for more than four years and we have serious plans for the future. Koen accepts my illness and through the internet he has been able to get to know me the way I really am. If we had not met each other on the internet, we might have never met. I do not know what my life would have been like then.