‘I never stopped talking about the importance of people knowing what the refugees have to go through’ -Alek Wek (37)


alek wek
Alek Wek -Photo from Wikipedia

Recently, I came across this interview (link below), and I see Alek Wek (South Sudanese super model) as one of the most inspiring prominent refugees. Also as an ambassador (to a variety of agencies and UN organisations) encouraging support from the public, she highlights the following points below by sending an important message across; ‘every human being can make a difference especially if they think about the other unfortunate ones’.

‘Shocking Reality’

Firstly, as a former refugee, she talks about ‘what it’s like to fight for survival on the front lines’ with ‘no health care and food’. She expresses how ‘heart breaking’ the number of displaced people is at the moment; 51 million according to documented figures – the highest since WWII. Udo Janz (Director of the NY office of UNHCR) emphasises the enormity of the situation suggesting that more attention is needed for these displaced people as the ‘number of people is simply forgotten’.

‘You educate a girl, you educate a society’

We can gain insight of her life as a refugee from the interview: challenging and traumatic. Based on her experience, she describes refugee women’s lives; ‘It’s not just men fighting in the civil war. The women have fought with the children (in a different way)’. ‘You educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a society’. I strongly agree with this as I believe education for women is vital as it creates a ripple effect. Education for women enables women to gain skills and a secured source of income. This will eventually create a better and sustainable quality of life for the family, children and community.

Education and the youth

Alek places further emphasis on education for children. ‘If we are able to educate the younger ones, we don’t have to constantly go back there and revisit and give’. From young children to young adults, education enables them to reach their potential and regain hope. Preparing them to become future leaders of their community, will create a brighter and more sustainable future preventing another cycle of a ‘lost generation’.

‘Refugees are just like you and I’

I want to put strong emphasis on Alek’s comment:‘Refugees are just like you and I’. She stresses the fact that refugees are the same group of people as us who desire to live normal lives. She also points out the importance of working with and within the community; ‘Not everyone has to come out of the country…something can be done so that the people really live in a somewhat of a harmony’. I agree that it is vital that those displaced can regain control of their lives without having to leave their homes. This is an essential tenet of RIJ’s approach to choosing projects to fund.

There is so much more I would love to highlight, but I strongly recommend you listen to the interview yourselves.


Yunji Hwang 



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