Miss Tourism World Canada performed a whirlwind tour of Merritt last week, stopping in at several local businesses, restaurants, tourist attractions and even making time for a chat with Mayor Linda Brown at City Hall.

The Herald caught up with Sewell, a pre-school teacher originally from Vernon, at the Nicola Valley Museum and Archives on July 23 and asked her what her impression of Merritt had been so far.

“It’s very exciting, it’s larger than what I thought it was,” said Sewell.

“I feel like a lot of people think that Merritt, BC, you just drive through it, so I was very excited to be invited here, and so far, there have been amazing opportunities for inclusive tourism.”

Sewell’s second stop of the day was Moon Shadows Campground on Neilson St. where she was excited to be able to communicate freely.

“When I was at Moon Shadows Campground, the individual there actually signed with me,” said Sewell.

“I’m fluent in American Sign Language and a big part of my reign as Miss Tourism World Canada is about promoting inclusive tourism. Tourism is for everybody, it’s not just for people who are not disabled, or don’t have any challenges. It is for individuals who are disabled, individuals who have no disabilities, individuals that have communication challenges like myself.”

Sewell has apraxia, a motor speech disorder that affects a person’s ability to make correct and accurate movements when speaking, which can hamper effective communication.

Because of this, Sewell was bullied as a child and even verbally abused by a teacher who separated her from her classmates and told her that she was retarded. Because of this, Sewell is a champion for people with disabilities, particularly in tourism.

July 23 is Sewell’s first day in Merritt, and with several more hours of her Nicola Valley tour to go, she was reluctant to name her favourite part.

“That is so difficult… I think some of the highlights were meeting the individual at Moon Shadows, being able to sign with her, and also seeing the mammoth tusk was unbelievable,” Sewell said, referencing the impressive mammoth tusk on display at the Museum.

“I’ve never seen a mammoth tusk before!”

Sewell’s entire visit will be chronicled on video and available on her website samsewell.com as well as on Experience Nicola Valley.