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Citizenship

This Former Refugee Is Now a Top Model in Australia

Ajak Deng is a former refugee.

Deng fled her home country of Sudan with her family during the Second Sudanese Civil War. They spent three years in a refugee camp in Kenya where her mother died from malaria. Deng and her seven siblings then moved to Australia where they were granted asylum in 2005. Since the age of 11, Deng grew up in Melbourne, Australia.

And she is also an internationally renowned supermodel sought after by top designers such as Louis Vuitton and Valentino.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Deng has just signed on to be the face of The Body Shop’s 2017 Christmas campaign, Play for Peace. The campaign aims to raise money to support Syrian children displaced and traumatised by conflict. A portion from every gift sold from the seasonal gift collection will be donated to International Alert’s Peace Play Project, which helps Syrian refugee children to heal through play.

A post shared by AJAK DENG (@iajakdeng) on

A post shared by AJAK DENG (@iajakdeng) on

Deng was keen to support the campaign as she felt it was her duty to return some of the kindness she felt when she was accepted as a refugee in Australia.

"The Australian government brought us here because they felt sorry for my father with eight kids having just lost a wife, and that to me is such a beautiful thing," she told Fairfax Media. "The Australian people have such a heart, welcoming people in ... Now I can give back and help the people who cannot help themselves."

Although she now resides in New York, Deng reportedly still considers herself an “Aussie girl”.

Read more: These Are 5 Reasons Why People Become Refugees

Deng also recently returned home to be the face of Melbourne Fashion Week.

According to Yeojin Bae, a South Korean-born Australian fashion designer, the industry is slowly becoming more inclusive and embracing diversity.

However Deng says she has experienced unfair treatment in her career and even made a move to leave the fashion industry last year.

"You don't get the same respect as the Caucasian girls.”

At the time when she planned to quit the industry she spoke of the cattiness, rudeness and racism she experienced.

However, she has also received messages from fans telling her what an inspiration she is to them.

“I am just grateful now that I am where I am in my life. You have to make the best of your upbringing and I am so grateful and very honoured to be where I am.” Deng said.

Global CItizen campaigns on the fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. You can take action on this issue here.