With a little help from two of her friends, Lara Scandar and Tara Emad.
Glamorous Australian-Lebanese supermodel Jessica Kahawaty is a TV host, lawyer, former beauty queen, and permanent front-row fixture at fashion shows across the world.
But the track record of this Sydney-born woman suggests that the designation she’d be most happy to print in bold letters on her visiting card is that of a humanitarian.
The internationally-recognised cross-culture-straddling Kahawaty teamed up with Maison Pyramide last week to visit Egypt to raise funds for Cairo-based NGO Helm Foundation.
Helm, which has won awards from Harvard and MIT for the world’s best social enterprise, is on a mission to help people with disabilities find suitable employment and ensure that public and private premises are accessible to all.
According to Kahawaty, of the approximately 1 billion people with special needs in the world, 15 million of them are based in Egypt, making Helm’s work all the more vital in the region.
Kahawaty visited the NGO along with two Egyptian celebrities, singer Lara Scandar and actor Tara Emad. A series of videos and images posted on the Instagram profiles of these three celebrities show just what they were up to during their field visit.
One video shows an induction process where they were taught the basics of sign language and braille. All three of them posted images of themselves participating in wheelchair races. Scandar and Emad posted images of an exercise requiring them to walk blindfolded as well.
In the caption to her post, Emad had a specific message to her 1.1 million Instagram followers. She said, “I got to be in their shoes for a few minutes. I was blindfolded and asked to walk a certain path, sat on a wheelchair and manoeuvred my way to reach the finish line.
“I learnt a few words in sign language and deciphered some in Braille. They are not incapable or disabled. We make them disabled by not giving them equal opportunities like everyone else.”
Scandar too spoke along similar lines, when the caption to her post read, “They say you never know what it’s like to be someone else until you walk a mile in their shoes. From wheelchair races to walking with a blindfold, they managed to teach us about their struggles through laughter, humour and kindness.
“Their stories are inspiring and their positive energy is infectious.”
It was Kahawaty though who lent the issue a face and a name when she posted an image of her along with wheelchair user Omar Hesham. Her caption said, “Meet @omar.hesham94 – how can I put into words what I learnt from Omar and his friends today? No obstacle is too big, no problem is unsolvable and never ever give up. The most optimistic people are those who have had ‘No’s’ thrown their way, ‘You can’t do it’, ‘We can’t accept you’ or ‘You can’t work here.’ ”
Kahwawaty and Maison Pyramide organized a charity gala too on the sidelines of the visit which included a silent auction courtesy of items donated by Hugo Boss, Dima Jewelry and Ammanii, among others. The amount raised was donated to Helm.
Scroll through Kahawaty’s Instagram profile and you’ll see many more examples of her previous humanitarian roles including pictures of her visiting the Za’atari refugee camp along with UNICEF last year, another one of her outside the United Nations earlier this year attending a meeting to lend her voice to the cause of gendered violence and child protection, and even one of her addressing the United Nations General Assembly on the topic of teenagers and youth.
Besides raising funds for Helm during this visit, Kahawaty tried to create a teaching moment for her 473,000 Instagram followers too, when she spoke through the captions of one her images saying, “Their spirit is amazing… it makes you stop and think – how can they appear to be happier than I? I have to learn from them.”
Indeed we all do, Kahawaty.