Venezuelan Orphan Crowned Miss World

09/11/2011 - Ivian Sarcos, an orphan from Venezuela, has grown up to be the beautiful and educated winner of the Miss World pageant. With access to schooling and support systems, orphans like Ms. Sarcos can also have a chance at bright futures.

Ivian Sarcos, the Venezuelan representative to the Miss World pageant, has been crowned as this year’s pageant winner.

Crowned on Sunday, the 22-year old beauty told the AFP, “This has taught me that life, although it may be bad, doesn't have to end badly. Although I no longer have my parents it has taught me to be stronger.”

Ms. Sarcos became an orphan at the age of eight, along with her 13 siblings. She studied at an orphanage run by nuns for five years and eventually graduated with qualifications in human resources. While she would find work with a broadcasting company, the new Miss World once dreamed of becoming a nun herself.

For the next year, Ms. Sarcos will work with the pageant’s Beauty with a Purpose charity, which has raised $800 million over the past 40 years. She will soon head to the West African nation of Ghana to implement a project on behalf of the charity.

Averaged over 2004-2008, just under a third of Ghanaians live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. Of the 1.1 million children who have lost one or both of their parents, 160,000 are AIDS orphans.

"I want to carry on doing the wonderful work that Beauty with a Purpose and the Miss World organization does and to help people in need," she said. In specific, she hopes to bring aid to other orphaned children – “I would like to help people like me,” she said.

Certainly, there is no shortage of orphaned children needing assistance, whether material, psychosocial or in the form of love and family. There are 143 million orphaned children worldwide, more than 16 million of whom are AIDS orphans. According to estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund, some two million children live in orphanages worldwide.

In her native Venezuela, there are 430,000 orphans. Of these, 12,000 children have lost both of their parents, just like Ms. Sarcos.  Ensuring that these orphans and other vulnerable children receive an education and remain free from poverty and hunger is an important part of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Venezuela has made great progress toward the achievement of these goals recent years. The country is “on-track” to meet four out of seven goals; but more work is needed in the areas of maternal health and HIV/AIDS.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, spoke yesterday at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) “The Way Forward Project Summit.” As per the State Department’s press release on the event, Ms. Clinton noted that, “every child deserves a safe, loving, permanent family of his or her own. That’s a basic human need.”

She urged government, non-governmental organizations, faith-based communities, development practitioners, local leaders and businesses to cooperate in this regard.

“I think every child needs at least one champion,” she said.

Ms. Sarcos’ story shows that with education and support, it is possible for even the most disadvantaged children to succeed in life and take part in wonderful opportunities.

With access to health and education, orphaned children can acquire the tools and foundation for a successful life. With at least one champion believing in them– be it a family member, friend, community member or teacher – they will gain the confidence and support needed for a vibrant future.