Miss Philadelphia visited the Green Library of West Chester University on Wednesday to address the tsunami disaster of 2004 in Sri Lanka.Brintha Vasagar, Georgetown graduate and current Miss Philadelphia, spoke to an audience filled with students of Philosophy and Cultural Studies Wednesday afternoon. Vasagar gave detailed descriptions of the destruction that she had seen in Sri Lanka.
In 2004, an earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean that created the 100 foot waves which devastated India, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The Asian or Box Day Tsunami struck the northeastern coast of Sri Lanka. Vasagar’s descriptive account of the destruction included graphic scenery of the damaged area. The first two miles inland from the coast saw the most destruction and being a current medical student, Vasagar wanted to help those in need.
Vasagar also portrayed her persona as Miss Philadelphia by sharing her stories of generosity and confidence. She took care of victims in a care-shelter and was given the responsibility of deciding who could be helped, and those would could not. Vasagar also helped donate more than $500,000 to control the damage of the Asian Tsunami.
Sri Lanka has been conflicted in a civil war since the summer of 1983. A cease fire was called to limit destruction. Vasagar displayed her ability to avoid political bias in an explanation of the conflict. Religious, social and economic factors all influence the differences between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil. More than twenty-five years of fighting continues as the Tigers of Tamil seek independence.
The cease fire allowed Vasagar to travel across occupied territory that she was previously unable to enter. A once beautiful country with flowing green vegetation was now flooded with water and covered in barbed wire from the political conflict. The cease fire offered her father a window to try and see the dwelling that was once his home. The area was too dangerous however, and a length’s glimpse was all the he could manage.
Miss Philadelphia explained how her travels to Sri Lanka have given her a new outlook on her heritage and the lengths her parents went through in order to give her an opportunity in the United States.
Vasagar is currently pursuing that opportunity in medical school. After creating an event to benefit tsunami victims at Georgetown University, Vasagar was invited to speak in front of Congress.
Gasps of excitement ensued when Vasagar revealed that President Barack Obama had wished to speak with her in private. With a modest retelling of her contributions and a tiara on her head, Miss Philadelphia displayed her cultural heritage.
West Chester’s own Dr. Frank Hoffman organized the discussion group comprised of Philosophy students and Vasagar’s followers. Soft drinks and traditional eastern food were provided for the more than 30 attendees. Miss Philadelphia acknowledged the conventionally spicy food as a favorite of her parents and not something she enjoyed.
Vasagar will step down as Miss Philadelphia this summer, but looks forward to pursuing a career in the medical field. Andrea Helfrich, a third-year communications at West Chester, is looking to capture Vasagar’s title in the 2009 Miss Philadelphia Pageant. Vasagar is a graduate-student at Ross University and plans on following her dream of becoming a doctor.
Eric Rinehimer is a West Chester University student. He can be reached at ER626593@wcupa.edu.