When She's Not on the Catwalk, Model Kyleigh Kühn Is Helping to Raise Funds for Schools in Afghanistan

Last night, the industry's coolest cool kids--model Nicole Trunfio and her guitarist boyfriend Gary Clark Jr., Ashley Smith, Tali Lennox, Suno's Max Osterweis and girlfriend (and Opening Ceremony buyer) Kate Foley--gathered for an intimate dinner at the West Village's Little Owl. What was the cause for celebration? It wasn't a new designer collab or the opening of a boutique. Nope--the fash set had gathered to fete the launch of an Afghani school yearbook. Didn't see that one coming, didja? Let us explain...
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Hayley Phelan
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Last night, the industry's coolest cool kids--model Nicole Trunfio and her guitarist boyfriend Gary Clark Jr., Ashley Smith, Tali Lennox, Suno's Max Osterweis and girlfriend (and Opening Ceremony buyer) Kate Foley--gathered for an intimate dinner at the West Village's Little Owl. What was the cause for celebration? It wasn't a new designer collab or the opening of a boutique. Nope--the fash set had gathered to fete the launch of an Afghani school yearbook. Didn't see that one coming, didja? Let us explain...
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Last night, the industry's coolest cool kids--model Nicole Trunfio and her guitarist boyfriend Gary Clark Jr., Ashley Smith, Tali Lennox, Suno's Max Osterweis and girlfriend (and Opening Ceremony buyer) Kate Foley--gathered for an intimate dinner at the West Village's Little Owl. What was the cause for celebration? It wasn't a new designer collab or the opening of a boutique. Nope--the fash set had gathered to fete the launch of an Afghani school yearbook.

Didn't see that one coming, didja?

Let us explain: Yearbook Afghanistan is a book featuring Afghan school children from the school that model Kyleigh Kühn helped set up. Kühn, besides being drop-dead gorgeous and incredibly well-spoken, is also an inspiring philanthropist--all three traits she seemed to inherit from her mom Heidi Kühn, who founded Roots of Peace, an international humanitarian organization that works to unearth dangerous landmines in wartorn countries.

"Like all stories, mine starts with my mother," Kühn said last night. She was bitten by the philanthropy bug when her mother took her on a trip to visit a Balkan minefield when she was just 13.

"I was really taken aback at what children my age had to deal with," Kühn said of the formative trip. "I met students that had lost their families, their parents, their limbs, their schools."

The soon-to-be-model walked away with the determination to make a difference. "At 13 I didn't know what to do or how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to do something."

A year later, the Twin Towers fell and America declared war on Afghanistan. "That brought me back to what I had seen in the Balkans, knowing that the children in Afghanistan would soon be dealing with that same reality."

Together with her philanthropist mother, and ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings (whom her mother had previously collaborated with), Kühn, still in high school, founded an initiative to raise money to build schools in Afghanistan.

"We went on to raise enough money to build six schools," Kühn said. "I was running around to all the schools in my area, trying to get the students to donate anything, a cent. So it happened literally penny by penny."

At 18, Kühn recalled the poignant story of how she discovered one of the school's sites:

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"Our driver really wanted to show us the school that his kids went to... We drove over the trenches that the mujahideen had dug out. And on the other side there was this wall that had paintings of landmines on it--to warn the kids. And there was just one little sheet. These kids were literally studying on the dirt--you hear about tent schools and this wasn't even a tent, it was just a little area."

It was then that Kühn, her mother, and Jennings, realized they'd found "the perfect place" for the next school.

That site now houses a bustling school, "bursting at the seams." Currently 250 students are enrolled. Yearbook Afghanistan both celebrates and benefits these exact students: The book, which retails for $66.00, features portraits of the children and landscapes shot by photographer Ruvan Wijesooriya. Proceeds from sales of the book will be donated directly back to the school to support these kids.

"I wanted to create something for the students that tells their stories," Kühn said. For many of these children, it may be the only photograph they’ll have of their childhood. And for the girls, it may be their last photo before they enter womanhood and are prohibited from being photographed.

"And it shows Afghanistan from the perspective that I've seen, and that's beautiful, warm, loving people and beautiful landscapes," Kühn. "It's not the story that you usually hear." But it's definitely one worth seeing.

Buy the book at Twenty Four Suns, or Opening Ceremony.

Click through to see more photos from the event.

Photos: BFA