From South Sudan to the catwalks of the world, Alek Wek now uses her star power to help H&M’s Conscious Foundation change lives. H&M talked to the supermodel about her important work.
The Sudanese model Alek Wek is the ambassador for the H&M Conscious Foundation. Alek was introduced to H&M Conscious Foundation when she was asked to give her opinion on which global challenges she found most immediate and relevant for the Foundation to support.
Which is why when she was asked to take up the post of ambassador for H&M’s Conscious Foundation, the fit felt right to her. The model, who hails from South Sudan, knows about the struggles of people in the developing world. “This role has come about very organically for me,” she explains. “When I was young, my family spent two weeks in the bush during the Sudanese Civil War. As a young person you don’t always grasp it, but simple things like clean water and education are so important.”
The H&M Conscious Foundation is an independent organisation that is working to drive long-lasting positive change for people and communities. The current focus areas for this work are Education, Clean Water and Strengthening Women.
The H&M Conscious Foundation complements H&M’s sustainability work. Since 2013 the Stefan Persson family has donated SEK 700 million to the Foundation. This donation enables real long term change for people and communities.
When choosing its three focus areas the Foundation asked H&M customers and employees for help. Through a global online voting process everyone had the chance to contribute. Based on this result, the H&M Conscious Foundation is focusing its work on Education, Clean water, strengthening women.
Wek is using her status as one of the world’s favorite supermodels to support the work H&M Conscious Foundation does in communities around the world, focusing on changing lives with real impact in the areas of water, education and strengthening women. “What I really love about the foundation is that they’re working with communities, because that’s how you tackle real challenges on the ground.”
For Wek, charity begins at home in New York, where she has spoken to students about her role and her experiences in these areas. “Speaking to young people is always a highlight for me,” she says. “You tell them they can have possibilities in their lives, and you see light bulbs go on over their heads. You can pass your own curiosity about the world onto them, which is a really special thing.”
Alek Wek was born in Southern Sudan and raised in the Dinka tribe. At fourteen, she was forced to flee to London to escape civil war. Soon thereafter, Alek was discovered at a London street fair and quickly rose to the top of the modelling industry.
Today Alek’s influence extends far beyond the fashion world:
- She spoke at the International Black Caucus Foreign Affairs as a member of a panel that included Hilary Clinton amongst others.
- She has served on the advisory board for the U.S. Committee for Refugees.
- She frequently speaks in New York area schools to raise awareness around famine in South Sudan and to educate children on the importance of nourishment.
- She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
- She is behind the Bracelet of Life campaign in conjunction with
Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders.
- She works closely with AIDS awareness organisations, children’s charities, and non-profits dedicated to breast cancer research.
It is with a sense of pride that I lend my voice to the H&M Conscious Foundation.
The collaboration with Alek Wek started in April 2014 and will initially run for a three year period.
“H&M is a great fashion brand and I am happy to work with a company that gives back in such an impactful way. The three focus areas have all affected my home country, so it is with a sense of pride that I lend my voice to the H&M Conscious Foundation,” Alek Wek, Ambassador H&M Conscious Foundation.
Watch a video where Alek speaks about being ambassador.
Read more on H&M site.