In support of children affected by the Syrian civil war, Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty has joined the Louis Vuitton for Unicef appeal. The brand has been working with Unicef since 2016, and in the face of the large-scale humanitarian crisis, Louis Vuitton‘s initiative has a dual purpose: to raise awareness and funds. Thousands of miles from her Vogue Paris Foundation Gala experience and a world away, Kahawaty visited Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan this week. Situated 12km from the Syrian border, the camp houses an estimated 79 000 displaced Syrians, and is the focus of numerous humanitarian outreaches that Kahawaty witnessed first-hand. “It’s absolutely humbling to be chosen to speak for this cause globally,” Kahawaty told Vogue.
The Louis Vuitton for Unicef appeal has raised more than US$ 2.5 million, with campaigns running across social media with the hashtag #makeapromise. The pairing makes for a powerful voice globally. Unicef is one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations upholding the rights of children and has the firm support of Louis Vuitton. The premium fashion house uses its influential platform to speak out about the crisis across continents and industries, calling out for donations on behalf of Unicef. The maison has also produced a limited-edition silver lockit necklace and bracelet, with 665 AED/SAR of the proceeds going directly to help Unicef’s projects, and the brand hosts direct donations to Unicef from its website.
“It’s an honor for me to be part of this incredible initiative by Unicef and Louis Vuitton” Kahawaty added. “Louis Vuitton was one of my first supporters four years ago and Unicef is an organization I have much admiration for. Children’s rights is a topic close to my heart.”
This is not Kahawaty’s first foray into humanitarian work – while studying international human rights law, refugee law, and family law in Sydney, her focus has always been children. She’s been involved with charities in Australia working to provide children with education and meals, and she visited a UN refugee camp in Bekaa Valle in Lebanon last year.
Zaatari camp has been run by Unicef and the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization since 2012, and offers emergency aid, educational support, medical attention, and emotional support to the children and families affected by the civil war. Kahawaty has been on the ground supporting the appeal. “It was a heartbreaking trip to the Zaatari Refugee camp,” she reflected.
“I asked myself over and over why I deserve this free life they can only dream of living.”
“I was pleasantly surprised with the initiatives run by Unicef and their partners in the camp,” Kahawaty told Vogue. “They’re providing around 35 liters of clean drinking water daily to the refugees, access to medical attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the on-site hospital, health and sanitation talks as well as programs for new mothers and – the most impressive of all – the refugees’ very own innovation lab where the people can come and discuss and invent solutions to the camp’s problems that Unicef then helps them implement.”
The ground teams in the camp have also been administering vaccinations. Since the start the year, Unicef has vaccinated more than four million children under the age of five against polio, and supplied 140 000 children with educational supplies for schooling. “Despite the horrors and suffering, there are many touching stories of children determined to pursue their hopes and dreams,” Kahawaty said. “A classroom full of boys at Makani, a center that provides informal education, psychosocial skills, and life training, shouted loudly their professional dreams when I asked: pilot, doctor, policeman, firefighter… A child is a child.”
The project is clearly one that the Lebanese-Australian model is passionate about and touched by. Her principles for change make her a valuable member of the team. “These children have taught me so much – to continue smiling in the face of adversity; generosity in the sweet handmade gifts they gave me; hard work; and always dreaming for a better future. I’ll never forget their faces.”