By Ashlie Barrett-White | @ahliebee
My first encounter with Shashamane Sunrise was through my relationship with the Miss Jamaica World Organization. When I was a contestant I met Dr. Z, and he added me to the Shash group chat and that’s where our history really started. My first Shash event was Trench Town Reads. The Miss Jamaica World contestants adopted a child for the day to read to, motivate, and encourage. I was paired with a boy who was really enthusiastic. I was so glad to be able to give back and to motivate children who saw us as role models. It was inspiring not only for the children, but also for us as contestants.
By the time I had won the Miss Jamaica World 2016 competition, I had become a Shash Ambassador. I visited the Windsor Forest Primary school in Jamaica. That was a fantastic experience. We got a chance to interact with the children and play sports with them. Shashamane is all about encouraging students not only by providing academic support, but also by engagement through activities like sports, drama, and dance. I went through each classroom and spent time with the children and engaged them in conversation. At the end of the day, we handed out books and awards. It was exciting to be able to inspire and to motivate them to be the best possible version of themselves. I got some of the girls together and had them try on my Miss Jamaica World sash—I wanted them to understand that anything is possible and encourage them to dream big. After our visit, Dr. Z took us on an excursion to the Blue Lagoon, which was so refreshing. We were surrounded by the natural beauty of Jamaica.
Click here to see clips from Ashlie’s visit to the Windsor Forest Primary School: https://youtu.be/GgMaqvp9Fvw
After my journey to Miss World finals in Washington, D.C., which was itself one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life, I got a chance to meet Miss World Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and Miss World Haiti, who were also Shashamane Ambassadors. I returned to Jamaica to participate in Shashamane’s annual charity fundraiser, Fashion Meets Music, at Villa Ronai, St Andrew. It was an eventful evening of entertainment combining music and fashion. The performances included Beenie Man, Elaine, and Grammy-nominated jazz musician Wayna, who flew in from Washington, D.C. Local designers as well as Trinidadian designers were featured during the fashion show, with presentations from Courtney Washington and Vance Kristy to name a few. I was also joined by a number of volunteers within Shash who were also in the fashion and modeling space, including Miss World T&T 2013 and Miss Earth T&T 2012. We had a parade of the queens, which included myself, Miss Supranational Jamaica 2016 Olivia Dwyer, Miss Global Jamaica 2016 Kadejah Anderson, and Miss Grand Jamaica 2016 Dianne Brown. The event wash hosted by one of my role models, Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam and my Miss Jamaica alumni partner, Gina Hargitay, Miss Jamaica World 2013.
Later we visited the National Baptist Basic School, where I interacted with children who were much younger than those at Windsor Forest. It was slightly different from my last visit—interacting with Kindergartners requires more conscious word choice and a different energy. All the same, I was so excited to look into their eyes and see such enthusiasm. You can tell when a child is inspired. At every Shashamane experience, I saw inspiration in the students.
Overall, my Shashamane Sunrise experience has been one that I’ve grown and learned from. I’m very grateful to Dr. Z and the organization for the ability to not only inspire children, but also to inspire the people who are doing the inspiring. Even in the group chats we have, I am inspired by all of the influential and dedicated people involved in Shashamane. I lift my hat to everyone who comes together to make the work possible and to continue being mentors to children. I believe that our children are our future. We must understand that anything is possible, especially when you’re a child, and we need to nurture this idea in our youth. We could be inspiring the next Prime Minister of Jamaica or the next Usain Bolt. And that is so powerful.
Ashlie Barrett is Miss Jamaica World 2016 and Shashamane Sunrise Jamaica Ambassador.