31/01/2017 11:24 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 11:50 GMT

Meet Hawa Kamara, Sierra Leone's First Miss Universe Contestant

It's a country of tragedy but expect smiles when you visit, says Kamara.

Mark Sullivan/WME IMG via Getty Images
Miss Universe Sierra Leone, Hawa Kamara, during fashion show in Vigan, Philippines on January 15, 2017.

Hawa Kamara made history this week when she became the very first representative of Sierra Leone in the Miss Universe pageant.

Kamara is an experienced pageant contestant, having been crowned Miss West Africa in 2013.

In an interview with CNN, Kamara said that her involvement in the pageant was an opportunity for the world to learn something about her country. She said, "It is very important for Sierra Leone to be a part of Miss Universe. We have gone through so many tragedies in our country, like the Ebola virus, and civil war. People (from Sierra Leone) don't really get opportunities ... because (others) think we're not capable or that, as a country, we're not safe."

She hopes that the publicity from her entry into the Miss Universe competition would encourage more people to visit her home country. "When you come to Sierra Leone, firstly, expect a lot of smiles at the airport. A lot of the time, the places you go, (there is) a connection between people. And then (there's) our food, which is delicious — it's something you wouldn't want to miss," she said.

Kamara said that beside beauty pageant work, she is involved with charities that are helping people who've been affected by the Ebola virus epidemic that killed more than 3,900 people in recent years.