MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference
When Macey and Alyca Nemer line up in a field of 14 contestants in the Miss Lebanon Australia final in Sydney this weekend, their primary motivation will be to help children orphaned by war or left with disabilities.
The Farmborough Heights sisters had never thought about entering a pageant but the more they learnt about Miss Lebanon and recent visits to the country prompted them to do something for children in need.
Macey, 20, was the first to enter but it did not take much encouragement for 25-year-old Alyca to join her.
They don't see each other as competitors, instead planning to support each other through whatever the competition throws at them this weekend.
"I would be just as happy if she [Alyca] was to win," Macey said.
Alyca said experiencing the contest together had been amazing.
"It feels like yesterday that this all started when in reality it has been three or four months," she said.
The two sisters have been going to rehearsals in Sydney every week for the last month as well as attending other events with all the Australian contestants.
Last week they were driven from Burwood into the Sydney CBD on a fire truck.
"We do something once a week as a group - maybe a dinner or a Lebanese sahra, which is like a party with music and dinner," Macey said.
Alyca said there was a lot of training and hard work involved.
"It is a learning experience the whole way," she said.
The Sydney final will be televised in Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, as well as North and South America.
But it is the support they and their mother Rehab Nemer, sister Samara and brother Omar have been getting in Wollongong that has touched their hearts.
"If it wasn't for the support we are getting here we would not be in it to begin with," Macey said.
Alyca said many of their friends and family were coming to support them on Sunday.
Macey said the judges were looking for a whole package, but for her the most important thing was being an ambassador for Lebanon, the Lebanese community in Australia and Wollongong, and children around the world injured or orphaned by conflict.
Both sisters said the charity aspect of the event made them realise how lucky they were to live in Australia.
"One person may not change the world but I think it is very important to start that change within yourself," Alyca said.
"It has really brought out my passion a lot more about how much I love living in this country and how disadvantaged people, especially those living in Lebanon, can be.
"It has also made me realise what a difference you can make in other people's lives. The charity side of it has been the most amazing part for me.
"I love Lebanon more than anyone can understand. As much as I am Australian, that is my heritage and that is something I also love."
Macey said the competition had changed her in many ways.
"It has taught me what you can do to help and how something as little as selling a $2 raffle ticket can go all the way overseas and help 6000 children who have been orphaned from war in the last 10 years," she said.
"People say you can't help and you can't do this because it is such a big problem, but it is about changing the mentality of people and appreciating that everything counts and anything you can do counts.
"It has helped me see how much I can help people. This has helped me realise that I live in a great area.
"So I want to take advantage of that and do what I can for others who don't have what I have."