NORTH NEWTON, KAN. Bethel College student Unita B. M. Kham was named Miss Asia 2003 at the Wichita Asian Association's 23rd annual Asian Festival Oct. 25 in Century II's convention hall in Wichita. Chosen from among nine Wichita-area contestants, the senior nursing major from Rukum, Nepal, was awarded gifts and the opportunity to represent Wichita's Asian community during events in the next year. Kham and the other contestants gave short speeches about themselves and their countries, responded to questions, and participated in the talent portion of the competition. Kham presented a traditional Nepali dance.
"I wanted to do this for the women in my country and for my mom and sister," Kham said after the event, referring to her mother in Nepal and sister in India.
Kham, who came to Bethel College in 2000, had attended other Asian Festivals but had not participated in the pageant until this year. Virginia Claassen from North Newton and others from the Bethel College community attended with Kham. Claassen has hosted Kham through the Bethel College host family program in which out-of-state and international students are matched with area families.
"Unita had prepared very well," Claassen said. "She introduced her country well, expressed her thoughts well and wanted those in the audience to know about her country."
Kham's native language is Kham, which is spoken by the Budha magar tribes that live in the Rukum district west of Kathmandu. For eight years she studied in India where she learned Hindi. She is also fluent in Nepali and English.
"My interest in higher education and my desire to experience cultures other than my own have brought me to the United States," Kham said in her introductory speech at the festival. "I am currently pursuing a nursing degree at Bethel College. I hope that nursing will open many doors of opportunity for me, opportunities to impact the lives of my patients in my profession and opportunities to learn and grow through the unique journeys of those whom I encounter."
"You might ask yourselves, 'How did a girl from a very remote region in Nepal end up in North Newton, Kansas?' ... I was a driven young girl, a driven student, and now I am a driven young woman who believes that life has a lot to offer. I have enjoyed and am expecting to taste every bit of it.
"Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had not pursued my education. Most probably I would have become much like my mother: young, illiterate, and a struggling housewife with very few options from which to choose. But I am grateful to God and to my mother, without whose support I would not be who I am today. So, unlike the majority of the women in my country today, I have been given this opportunity to be a voice for the women of Rukum, for the women of Nepal, for the women of Asia and, really, for the women of the world," Kham concluded.