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Friday, June 10, 2016


By Dennis D. Muhumuza

“Beauty with a purpose” is a catchphrase vocalised by many national beauty queens but few give it tangible meaning like the reigning Miss Jamaica, Dr. Sanneta Myrie. The 25-year-old is a medical doctor who turned to catwalk not to show off her booty, but to use the limelight to impact the world. That’s why she spent over ten hours airborne from New York to Africa for two weeks of voluntary service that saw her reach out to disadvantaged children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

“I came with a team from Shashamane Sunrise, an international NGO focusing on supporting children’s education in developing countries. I jumped at the invitation to join their efforts because what the organisation does is in line with what I like to do, which is to mentor young children from disadvantaged circumstances.”
It’s easy for Dr. Sanneta’s heart to beat for the underprivileged because she didn’t have a rosy childhood either. She was born in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, to a single mother and a Rastafarian father she has never met. She was later adopted and given an opportunity she maximised to become the woman she is today. 
The writer with Miss Jamaica 2016
“If I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to get quality education I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that I have achieved. So when it comes to providing good education for children; giving each child equal opportunity to achieve, it’s really something I’m drawn to because we are all capable; it’s just a matter of opportunity.” 

Dr. Sanneta spent five days at St. Theresa Ngora-Okoboi Primary School, in Ngora District, eastern Uganda. She gave out books, pens, pencils, erasers and interacted with the school’s population of 503 learners who she described as “bright-eyed children in worn-out uniforms and tattered shoes and slippers”.
“I got them to tell me their dreams and a lot of them expressed their desire to be like the people they admire in their community: teacher, farmer, doctor, priest. No one said they wanted to be a national beauty queen because the concept of catwalk was alien to them.  

“It was a bit difficult to explain to them where Jamaica is. I told them about Bob Marley and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt who are from my country but they looked at me bewildered because they didn’t know these people. I understood knowing this is a rural setting with no electricity, no TV; no real exposure to the outside world. That’s why it’s important for anyone with a massive platform to use it to reach out to such children; to stimulate them and give them a broader world outlook.” 

Mentoring children
Dr. Sanneta held mentorship workshops; impressing upon the children the importance of working hard and utilizing every opportunity. An accomplished dancer who started dancing at the age of three, she also took them through dancing routines because “dance is a form of healing; medicine heals the mind and body, and dance heals the soul.” 

“I engaged them in some Jamaican dances but the moves proved challenging for them to fully grasp but they tried their best and laughed their way through it,” she said. “It was a fulfilling day of putting smiles across many faces.” 

Away from getting jiggy with the children, the beauty queen rolled her sleeves and got involved in the harder work of renovating the school buildings. She commissioned a group of local masons and as they built the unfinished walls and others put a new roof on some of the buildings, she grabbed a paintbrush and painted a whole wall. 

Before leaving Teso, Dr. Sanneta visited Sipi Falls which she described as a “breathtaking site” and the hike down to the base of these falls was “quite an amazing experience” for her. 

In Kampala, Dr. Sanneta met the reigning Miss Uganda Zahara Nakiyaga.

“I took her to Special Children Special People, a home in Bunga, that helps prepare children with disabilities for formal education,” said Zahara. “She interacted with the children and met their teachers. It was a great experience getting together again and rehashing old memories at Miss World.” 

The Director of that special needs home, Dr. Naboth Colle, said the children had a great experience with Miss Jamaica: “She was interested in their welfare; how they live and cope. She talked to and took pictures with them and we were all honoured by her presence and touched by her compassion.” 

Dr. Sanneta also met Pauline Akurut, the reigning Miss Tourism. 

“Such a world beauty but she is out there working so hard and making a huge difference,” said Pauline, of how the Caribbean queen's work ethic inspired her. “I learnt a lot from her.”  

 Beauty tips
Interestingly, Dr. Sanneta's journey on the runaway started coincidentally. Her one dream was to become a doctor and help the suffering lot. But after completing medical school, her best friend convinced her to enter the Miss Jamaica pageant. She won it and represented her country at the 2015 Miss World beauty contest in China where she finished third runner-up, and won the Miss World Caribbean crown. 

No doubt for our national beauty queens to perform better on the world stage they have to prepare adequately. Dr. Sanneta had to hire a specialist to train her in poise, a dance master to help sharpen her dancing skills, and was coached by public speaking scholars in the art of oratory as part of her preparations for Miss Jamaica and Miss World beauty contests. 

“When you are in a competition like Miss World, you look in front there are beautiful girls, you look behind there are beautiful women, you look aside there are beautiful women; so you have to be versatile,” she said. “You have to have something that sets you apart, and that is what comes from the inside. You have to have exceptional self-belief because it helps you to perform without pressure.” 

To somebody aspiring to be a strong woman, Dr Sanneta shares the importance of value system: “You have to know what you stand for because if you stand for nothing you fall for everything. Also you have to know that you have a lot to offer the world and the determination to commit yourself to a task in line with with your passion. That makes it easier for you to shine.” 

Shining is what Dr. Sanneta does, giving concrete meaning to her name which loosely translates to “shining sun.” 

She stays in shape by having enough sleep, drinking lots of water which “helps the skin” and staying active by running more, dancing, connecting with friends, helping the less privileged; generally doing things that help “the body, mind and spirit.” 

Dr. Sanneta is dating and hopes to get married at the right time. But her focus currently is to complete her reigns as Miss World Caribbean and Miss Jamaica positively. “Then I’ll return to my regular life and practice medicine,” she says with a smile.

The interview ends with a sermon on togetherness and industriousness: “Love and unity is something I always preach; we need to unify as Africans; those abroad and those at home, and continue to work and make a better world for our children."