Miss Earth and Miss Ecuador 2011, Olga Mercedes Alava Vargas, says that she goes to hospital to support children with AIDS because medicines are not all that they need. “They need people who support them, so that they don’t feel discrimination. That’s why I’m here, to learn more,” says Olga who was in the city for the Red Ribbon revolution, an initiative with the Bangalore Schools Sports Foundation to eradicate stigma and discrimination among children living with HIV / AIDS through sports as a medium of transformation.
“I met the children in their school. All of them have dreams and we have to work for those dreams because they are children. They don’t know how difficult the world outside is and we have to give them the tools to go out there and fight for their dreams. I see that people here are taking care of them, helping them construct a future so that they will be able to work, raise a family and be healthy.”
As Miss Earth 2011, Olga spent much of last year, supporting the cause of the environment, especially in her home country Ecuador, where she campaigned to save mangroves.
“Though I worked for the environment last year, I feel working for humanity is important and I will continue working for society. Miss Earth is a tool for all this work to go on and to enlist the help of private sectors, to make them listen.”
Olga feels that being with Miss Earth also helps understand cultures and the realities of each country. “You have to deal with people, work on projects and hold events, and in the process you get to know the reality of each country.”
Olga juggles her time between social work and her career in international business, which she holds a degree in, maintaining that modelling will be her hobby. But what’s important, she feels, is being socially conscious
“Modelling is my hobby, a means to give to society. One has to give to one’s country and the world because if one receives good things, one has to give something back. This is something everyone, not just me, has to commit to, giving something back to the country or the world that gives you all.”
Olga now hopes to start a family and continue working to help people. “In less than 10 years, I hope to have a place where I’m helping a section of people. And after seeing the work that is happening here, I want to do something similar in Ecuador.”
She believes that discrimination is simply lack of knowledge. “People think that the virus passes on just by hugging or touching and it’s not like that. People with HIV deserve the same opportunities and the same love as anyone else because they are also children of god. We will have to try to make them feel like that.” Social networking, she feels, also plays a huge role in eliminating such discrimination.