Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Four top MUJ altruism programme - Projects range from tablets in schools to JSPCA GoFundMe

Published:Saturday | December 5, 2020 | 8:31 AM
Samantha Williams donated 11 tablets to her alma mater, Great Pond Basic School.
Samantha Williams donated 11 tablets to her alma mater, Great Pond Basic School.
Alexia Royal-Eatmon (second right) hands over tablets and portable Wi-Fi devices to Carol O’Connor-Clarke, principal of Half-Way Tree Primary.
Alexia Royal-Eatmon (second right) hands over tablets and portable Wi-Fi devices to Carol O’Connor-Clarke, principal of Half-Way Tree Primary.
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Kimberly Dawkins, Alexia Royal-Eatmon, Abigail Pinnock and Samantha Williams have made it to the top four of The Bahia Principe Miss Universe Jamaica (MUJ) Beauty, Fashion and Wellness Pageant’s altruism programme.

The MUJ altruism programme encourages contestants to find ways to improve and impact lives. With the challenges faced by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they have also been asked to create projects that will seek to address some of the nation’s concerns.

On Sunday, November 29, the 10 finalists were invited to present their projects to a live selection panel and social media audience. Four projects were selected, and the contestant with the top project will receive the Altruism Award at the December 12 competition.

MUJ co-director Mark McDermoth said the pageant’s altruism programme is particularly relevant as the nation and the world grapples with the global COVID-19 pandemic. While it does not contribute to a contestant’s overall score, doing well in the programme is just as important.

“Usually the altruism award does not affect a contestant score, but we have been trying to bring it home to the ladies in the pageant, for example, that if two contestants are being judged and they bring equal amounts of the attributes the judges look for, that simple things such as punctuality, commitment to assignments issued and just an overall positive attitude, among other little details, just could make the difference between who advances to the top five and who does not,” said McDermoth.

He added that, while the winning project is usually adopted as the national platform for the year, though challenged in previous years with funding, this year, all four projects will be highlighted.

“This year, we will make a special effort to mount an extra drive to highlight the top four projects coming out of the contestants’ presentation and have those contestants spearhead their projects as the national charities. We feel that this will take off more seriously, with the contestants bringing the energy and commitment they applied to the projects on the personal level,” he shared with The Gleaner.

The finalists presented diverse projects, ranging from a GoFundMe to help the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) find a new home, to an empowerment initiative targeting young girls and women.

Dawkins, who wears the sash Miss R Hotel, started her Red Flower initiative before entering the competition. The licensed registered nurse and Miss Supranational 2019 shared that, as a child, she was molested and this impacted her self-esteem and how she interacted with others. She is aiming to empower other young women through the Jamaica Youth Motivators, a non-profit youth organisation which mentors unattached youths in Jamaica.

Red Flower focuses on building self-esteem and confidence. Its core values are: respect, empowerment and discipline, or R.E.D. Last year, the group held a forum with the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, targeting high-school students and exploring topics such as health and fitness, menstruation, self-respect and actualisation and personal hygiene. Recently, they did a clothes drive for the Elsie Beman Girls’ Home, and plan to launch an online forum next year during Women’s Month, focusing on the impact of child molestation.

Wearing the sash of Miss Ryhva Active, Royal-Eatmon’s Tutor Free Jamaica is an online educational platform aiming to improve access and help students transition into online learning. Recently, the initiative delivered tablets and portable Wi-Fi devices to the Half-Way Tree Primary School, and are inviting other institutions to email tutorfreejamaica@gmail.com to be a part of the project.

A student herself, Royal-Eatmon said she is aware of the challenges students face with the current global pandemic and resulting online learning, and wants to assist. Her organisation offers free tutoring and consultations for parents, teachers and students, to help them navigate academic issues at home. They also offer homework and study schedule consultation and help parents create conducive learning environments.

For Pinnock, who is a veterinarian by profession, her project is directly connected to her passion for helping animals.

The Miss Bluedot Communa’s project is helping to raise funds for the JSPCA which, unable to stay at its current location, is searching for a permanent home. Pinnock started a GoFundMe campaign on November 19, to assist in this aim, which to date has hit US$7,244 of its US$50,000 goal from some 26 donors.

Miss Acropolis Gaming Lounge is giving back to Great Pond, the community she calls home. Williams said, on a recent visit home, she realised that students from the Great Pond Basic School, her alma mater, had had their learning severely impacted by the pandemic. She aims to bridge the gap by providing tablets to these students.

Her Save the Dreams initiative supplies students in need with tablets. She recently donated 11 tablets to students at Green Pond Basic School, all with a 28-day Flow data plan. Teacher were provided with a 16GB memory card as a special gift. Williams says she was also able to raise more than $250,000 from individual donors, and corporate sponsorship from Business Access and Itz Shipd, in just two weeks. She hopes to continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Calling education the great equaliser, she said we must take steps now to create inclusive and resilient education systems.

To learn more about this year’s Miss Universe Jamaica’s altruism programme, @ officialmissuniversejamaica on Instagram.

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