afghanistan charity kyleigh kuhn

Model Kyleigh Kühn has grown up with benevolence in the blood. Her mother started a charity that turns minefields into farmland in Afghanistan and by graduation, Kyleigh had raised enough money to build six schools in the country. Here she shares with SUITCASE her insights into a place that is often misunderstood.

My interest in Afghanistan began…

In 2001. It’s fair to say that the world became interested in Afghanistan post 9/11. But my love for the culture began on my first visit in 2005. We went to see the farmers we trained and the site of the first school we raised money to build.

Afghanistan is special because…

I’ve never felt such a balance of opposites: it is both rustic and ornate, violent and endearing, devastating and inspiring. There’s a strange pull there; it’s so familiar to your bones, but wildly different from anything you have ever encountered. It’s not just me who feels this way – nearly everyone who has been to Afghanistan relates to this.

Afghanistan inspires me through…

Its craftsmen. I fell in love with rustic jewellery worn by the nomad Kuchis, as well as the intricate Chobe carpets and kilim rugs in their otherwise humble mud-clad homes. Most quality carpets sold in the US are made in Afghanistan, although Pakistan often re-labels them as they are shipped through their port. Afghans are also extremely skilled wood carvers.

The people are….

The media often depicts Afghan men as intolerant but many have greeted me with their hands placed tenderly over their heart. They are educated and value poetry, fairness and equality for their daughters. The women are incredibly strong and vibrant. I’ve seen them at a wedding wearing glitter in their hair and dancing joyously for hours.

Roots of Peace is…

A non-profit organisation my family started in 1997 to transform minefields into vineyards and orchards. We restore economic vitality by creating livelihoods in post-conflict regions.

I wish more people would…

Explore how their passions and talents might contribute to the world rather than just their self-interests.

The biggest challenge I face in raising awareness is…

Trying not to get discouraged by the apathy of others.

A lot of people don’t know that Afghanistan…

Has snow. One of my favourite Afghanis owns Hotel Bamiyan and leads adventurous (mostly German) skiers down a nearby slope.

Yearbook Afghanistan is…

A photo project featuring students from our schools. The aim was to help people in the US view the children through a more honest lens – one that didn’t appeal to their sympathy, but rather showed them as the adorable, shy, silly, eager kids that they are.

My modelling career overlaps with my charity work when…

I got into modelling to promote my family’s projects. Bruce Weber fell in love with Roots of Peace and encouraged me to pursue modelling to help gain more traction for our work. Since then, I’ve found the fashion industry to be incredibly supportive.

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