Actress and model Cara Delevingne explains why she decided travel to Uganda supporting refugee girls' education with Girl Up, the United Nations Foundation's adolescent-girl campaign, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This January, I traveled to Uganda as a Girl Up champion. I went on the trip with an open heart, ready to learn about the refugee crisis directly from students and members of the UNHCR. Girl Up, the U.N. Foundation’s adolescent-girl campaign, raises money for programs that expand access to quality education. In Uganda, it also provides essentials like clothes and textbooks to girls who need them. You can’t fathom what all the statistics mean until you’re there and meet some of the [900,000-plus] refugees fleeing devastation and violence in South Sudan.
We went to a primary school in Bidi Bidi, a camp hosting more than 270,000 refugees, and the students welcomed us with an incredible dance and drum performance. I fell in love with them, but I’d never been so heartbroken at the same time. After the show, the kids and their parents talked to me about family members who had been abused or killed.
In Busia, I met a mother who’d just lost her husband. I didn’t fully understand what strength was until I looked into her eyes and saw how hard she was trying to keep it together for her kids. The people I’ve met have gone through hell and back, yet they still have smiles on their faces. The only thing these girls ask for is an education. When I spoke to them it really put into perspective how much I took my own for granted.
My visit to Uganda was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. With what’s going on everywhere right now, people may feel helpless. But through Girl Up, everyone can change the world in some small way. [See Delevingne’s specially designed T-shirt benefiting the organization, above.] After meeting these young women, I’m so excited for the future. To see girls who are so strong despite going through that much was inspiring.
—As told to Shalayne Pulia
For more information on Girl Up, go to GirlUp.org.
For more stories like this, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download July 7.