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The voice of North American Ugandans

The moment her name was called at the Miss Ugandan North American Association pageant Sept. 3, Yvette Kibwaka said her mind went to her late mother.
“All I could think about was her and my family,” Kibwaka said. “A lot of her people flew out to see me. It was pretty monumental.”
Ugandan North American Association hosts a weekend-long convention geared toward bringing Ugandan heritage people living in the North America together for what Kibwaka, a UNF economics senior, calls “a big family reunion.”

The convention was held in Washington, D.C. Throughout the weekend, activities included political forums and debates, vendors, musical acts and the Miss UNAA 2010 pageant.
Kibwaka said the win was very emotional for her. She was born in Uganda and has lived in the U.S. for 16 years. Her mother was heavily involved in the organizing the convention itself when it was held in 2000 and 2001. She suffered from an intracerebral aneurysm and passed away in December 2004. Kibwaka was in seventh grade.

Kibwaka called her mother the center of her universe, and though she is no longer with her, winning the crown made her feel slightly closer.
As Miss UNAA 2010, Kibwaka said she is now representing over 300,000 Ugandans in North America and the Diaspora. She was also awarded $2,000.
Ronnie Mayanja, UNAA board member for the East Coast and founder of unaatimes.com, said Kibwaka won because she displayed what he believes the judges were looking for in a Miss UNAA contestant.
“Yvette was able to win because based on all the terms and conditions set for the pageant in terms of who would win, she sort of was ahead of the pack,” Mayanja said. “In terms of the poise, the intellect, the presentation.”

This was not Kibwaka first pageant win. She also won the 2007 Miss Black and Gold Pageant at UNF, sponsored by the Sigma Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha when she was a sophomore.
Kibwaka said she entered the Miss UNAA 2010 pageant because she was motivated to get involved in her country because the Ugandan youth in the U.S. haven’t been doing as much as she hoped they would. She said in Uganda, the entire education system from elementary school and above has to be funded by their families.

As part of the Youth Transition Program through On-Campus Transition, Kibwaka helps students take advantage of their access to free education by teaching 25 students with developmental disabilities to learn skills that will help them live independently after college.
She also works with AmeriCorps. The transition program includes 11 non-OCT students and 10 OCT students who work to serve the U.S. by helping youth with developmental disabilities.
The program director, Jared Davis, said he hired Kibwaka as a Life Skills Facilitator because she seemed energetic and passionate about the program and thought she would be a good fit.

“She’s been doing a great job building workshops and mentoring students and going to the District, which is the off-campus housing for some of our students and mentoring there and doing workshops there,” Davis said. “She’s been great.”
Kibwaka also sponsors a child in Uganda named Zaam. Zaam is part of the Hope Academy the Ugandan Rural Fund facilitates.
Within the next couple of years after she graduates, Kibwaka would like to start her own business, one that partners Uganda and the U.S. to benefit Ugandans.

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    Saraya MukasaFeb 19, 2012 at 2:21 am

    To be honest the whole pageant was a trial which turned good. The judges were biased and some contestants even went ahead of themselves to get the judge’s votes. Although she didn’t perform in one of the main categories of the pageant, we have no choice but to be accept and be glad she won. She did something and continues to, but it wasn’t a fair pageant in all honesty.