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Pageant contestants bring COVID joy

You cannot keep a beauty contestant down, especially in the Marshall Islands. The recent COVID outbreak in the Marshall Islands led to the postponement of the Miss Marshall Islands Pageant but this was not enough to deter the contestants who had already set their minds on helping their communities.

The Pacific Advocate spoke to two contestants about their volunteer work during the outbreak. Miss Jaluit, Claret Gum raised her hand to volunteer to swab and register patients at the test and treatment site at Delap Elementary School.

This was when most medical personnel had also tested positive for COVID.

“Volunteering wasn’t particularly a choice but rather an obligation that I believe I had to do out of the nature of my love for my nation and people,” Ms Gum said.

“I enjoyed my experience and remain grateful and humble to have worked alongside our frontliners, who have shown resilience and courage.”

Ms Gum shared that the pageant inspired her to take on a larger role for her community and advocate for mental health.

Miss Ailuk Leihani Andrike sends PPE supplies home. Picture: Miss Marshall Islands 2022

“I wanted to become a voice to inspire and motivate others and to remind younger girls to believe in themselves and know where they come from,” she said.

“I see this opportunity to engage more with relevant offices who specialise in this area to educate the younger generation about this issue and to remind them that there are numerous places where you can seek help and people who are willingly always ready to help.”

Miss Ailuk, Leaine Andrike has been sending COVID supplies from Missouri, United States back to the Marshall Islands.

Since July Ms Andrike has used her own money and organised fundraising activities to get supplies with the help of the Marshallese communities in the US.

“While I have my own desires to be of service to the people, I believe we are all interdependent in that in order to accomplish or achieve something,” she said.

Miss KBE (Kili, Bikini, Ejit) Rosenet Timius volunteers at the Marshall Islands High School vaccination site. Picture: Miss Marshall Islands

“It certainly feels good to give back to my people to secure them from contracting COVID-19. This is the best I could do right now. I am grateful for being able to help my people in the best way I can.”

Ms Andrike decided to take part in the pageant because she wanted a challenge and to voice issues close to her.

“It’s an opportunity for me to show the world that I am a Marshallese, specifically from Ailuk the land of many sailing boats who depend so much on subsistence living and their surroundings to survive,” she said.

“I want to bring to light the minimum wage, food shortage, expired foods sold in stores, and the lack of respect faced by women.

Miss Majuro Priscilla Zedkeia prepares Covid supplies for Rairok community. Picture: Margaret Alee Facebook

“Overall, the pageant is a great way to speak your truth and bring up topics in hopes of benefiting the community and for women as well.”

Other contestants that also volunteered during the outbreak include Miss Majuro Priscilla Zedkaia, Miss Kwajalein Dorine Kowan, Miss KBE Rosenet Timius and Miss Ebon Ellen Gum.

The pageant committee confirmed preparations for the Miss Marshall Islands 2022 pageant will resume once COVID cases decrease.

The pageant is a tourism initiative developed by the Office of Commerce, Investment, and Tourism in close collaboration with the Kora in Okrane (KIO club) with the intention of highlighting and promoting the Marshall Islands’ culture, traditions, skills, and people.

Miss Jaluit 2022, Claret Chong Gum was one of the first people on Majuro to help with the COVID-19 outbreak. Picture: Miss Jaluit 2022
Miss Jaluit 2022, Claret Chong Gum was one of the first people on Majuro to help with the COVID-19 outbreak. Picture: Miss Jaluit 2022

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