Miss Africa USA 2023 winner Snit Tewoldemedhin says she intends to go to Africa during her 12-month reign to educate Africans about the potential of children with special needs while demystifying long-held beliefs on the continent that such children are a burden on society.
The 24-year-old senior Neuroscience student at George Mason University in Washington told VOA that as a sister of a young girl with Down Syndrome, she can attest to the fact that children with special needs ”are a blessing and not a curse.”
“Back home (referring to Eritrea where she hails from), children with special needs are seen as being cursed and not a good blessing to the family,” she recalled.
“But I realized that once I had my sister step into my life, I became kinder toward children and my approach to them changed completely. And today, I am Miss Africa USA 2023 winner because of her. So, clearly, she has been a blessing.”
Snit, who moved to the United States for further studies four years ago, said she believes that her ascension to the beauty pageant held in the state of Maryland last month was divinely ordained.
“I have been chosen to become the Miss Africa USA 2023 because it was God’s will and because I think that my platform was unique and different, and I did really put my heart into it,” she said. “And I am glad that organizers of the Miss Africa USA pageant saw that and honored me with the title.”
Able Child Africa, a London-based charity organization focused on improving the lives of children living with disabilities in Africa, estimates that 60 million people with disabilities live on the continent, with ”the vast majority” of them being children.
“Up to 80% of these children will not live to be 5 years old. The ones that do are four times more likely to be abused, 10 times more likely to be out of school.”
It’s for this reason that the reigning Miss Africa USA winner has a long-term vision to build a school that caters only to the needs of children with disabilities in Africa. Snit Tewoldemedhin wants to capitalize on her current role as a teacher for a U.S. Montessori preschool to bring real change to children with special needs.
“But before that, I would love to make adjustments to our current curriculum and make them successfully achievable for children with special needs.”
“During my reign, I would like to visit schools and maybe inspire other young children and show them that I am African, learning these skills and I would love Africa to benefit from them as well,” she said.
“Then, I would also love to go back to African countries and give them some lessons on how to use these materials that I have been using in the Montessori school.”
Snit Tewoldemedhin who won the Miss Africa USA crown on the twenty-third of March 2023 is twenty-four years old and is five feet ten inches tall. When Tewoldemedhin is not studying for her degree, she is playing tennis or basketball or teaching in an elementary school.
The 2023 Miss Africa USA pageant was held in the U.S. state of Maryland and was first launched in 2005.