Friday, April 13, 2007

The Clay Aiken iTunes Podcasts, Part Five: On being a UNICEF Ambassador

$100,000 in 10 Days for Afghanistan

Click HERE to Support UNICEF's Programs In Afghanistan

A Message From Clay Aiken, UNICEF Ambassador:

"I've just returned from Afghanistan and see that the need is urgent. Let's aim high and work together to raise $100,000 in 10 days. Join me in standing with UNICEF to help these kids."

Clay talks with schoolgirls in Afghanistan
Photo from ABC's "Good Morning America"

See Clay in Afghanistan in Diane Sawyer's report for GMA:

In 2004, Clay Aiken was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, with a special commitment to education. Almost immediately, he was at work for the benefit of children, serving as spokesman for UNICEF's tsunami relief efforts on a series of appearances on "The Insider" and "Entertainment Tonight", as well as taking part in the NBC tsunami relief telethon.

In March 2005, three months after a quarter of a million people died when the tsunami hit Indonesia, Thailand, South Asia, Africa and other regions bordering the Indian Ocean, Clay traveled to Banda Aceh and other areas of Indonesia to witness UNICEF's rebuilding efforts. He talks about this field visit in the last of five podcasts available for free download on iTunes.

Two days ago, Clay completed a five day visit to Afghanistan, where he traveled between Kabul and Bamyan to witness the grass roots health and education programs that UNICEF was delivering. Read the press releases from ReliefWeb and UNICEF.

Clay's other UNICEF work includes testifying before the United States Congress on behalf on increased appropriations for UNICEF; traveling to northern Uganda to witness the phenomenon of "night commuters" and to meet with former child soldiers who were being reintroduced to a normal life; serving as the national spokesperson for the 55th annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign and visiting schools that were the top fund raisers; raising over $70,000 in just one week, through the support of his fans, to help provide lifesaving medicines and other emergency supplies; hosting the 2006 UNICEF Snowflake in New York City, and; participating in UNICEF UpClose, an awareness-building campaign powered by Yahoo! Answers, a new forum for discussing the challenges facing the world's most vulnerable children.

With his $100,000 in 10 Days for Afghanistan appeal, he continues his dedication to helping the children of the world not just survive, but reach their full potential.

In this interview, Clay talks about his first UNICEF field mission to Indonesia, the almost indescribable scenes of death and destruction, and the amazing resilience of the people.

(Excerpt: Clay Aiken,“ I Want to Know What Love Is” from "A Thousand Different Ways")

At the same time, through that, and having the opportunity to work with that foundation [The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, founded by Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel], I guess we somehow caught the ear or the eye of UNICEF. They have different celebrity ambassadors who work in different areas that they work in, whether it be clean water or activism for HIV and AIDS and women’s rights, different areas.

They work in education, and one of their biggest areas of concentration is making education accessible for all kids throughout the world, and as a teacher there was a natural synergy for me to possibly do that. So they called me up and asked me to participate and be their ambassador for education, which I thought "Sure, why not, I'm happy to help UNICEF.” I’d heard about UNICEF and knew about it, and never really anticipated exactly what that would entail.

I took my first trip to Indonesia in early 2005 and I was told it would be a practice run. They told me, “We'll take you to Indonesia and it will just be a practice so you can kind of prepare you a little bit for the types of things you will see on these trips.” and I remember getting off the plane in Banda Aceh and the very first thing they took us by when we got off the plane, maybe a mile down the road, they took us to this huge field, empty field, the ground was unsettled.

And I said “So, what are we looking at? What used to be here?”

And they said “Nothing used to be here. This is a field, but it’s a mass grave with thirty five thousand bodies in it.”

Three five zero zero zero.

Thirty-five thousand bodies in this field which was no more than two acres, so there were bodies on top of bodies because in the Muslim faith you have to bury the body pretty quickly, so they had done that. That the first thing I saw on this “practice run.”

A mile away from the ocean we could see the water marks on the buildings third story up, where the water had come to the third story.

I met kids, I met two, not kids... two college-age students who were standing near this 5000 ton barge that was a mile and a half inland, sitting on the ground. We were looking at that and there were two college students that we walked by, and I struck up a conversation with them. It was interesting: Idol had been over there, so they knew who I was. It was kind of funny, and I talked to them for awhile, and I asked them what they did.

This is how the conversation from them went, what they said:

They said, “Yeah, we live about a mile and a half away, we go to college, we’re in medical school…” this that and that… “We are planning on finishing school. Both of our moms and dads died in the storm. Both of our brothers and sisters died in the storm, and we’re going to finish college in about three years and we think that we will…”

And I said 'Whoa whoa whoa, back up.” It was just amazing to me, on this first day, this first two hours that I was there, that I was finding people who were just tripping over the fact that their families had died like it was nothing.

I asked one girl, “How can you do that? How do you say to me so nonchalantly, ‘Oh, yeah, both my mom, dad, brother and sister died in the tsunami’?” and she said, “Everybody lost someone. I don’t have any right to feel more sorry for myself than that.' And I just… (exhales forcefully) I did everything I could not to cry,

We met a man who actually drove us around and stood on the steps to what used to be a house and stood there with us and told us through tears how he had been called into the middle of town in the middle of the day that Sunday morning, and had gone into town and while he was in town the water came and killed both his wife and his son and five other members of his family in the house.

He had taken us to his home --- or what used to be his home --- and stood on the steps and told us that his wife and son died right there and he was crying and I was trying not to make it worse.

And I remember thinking to myself, “How can THIS be practice?" I looked at the lady from UNICEF who was with me and said “You’ve got to be kidding me. If this is practice, I don’t think I can handle this” She said, “Well, you know, these people are resilient, and they’re ready to move on with their lives and they are ready to go.”

I remember one guy who was selling water and juice near the water to make money to rebuild his house. I asked him if he planned on rebuilding near the water, and he said that he did. I said, “Aren’t you afraid?” and he said "Man should not fear the sea. Man should only fear God" and I thought “Wow, this is an amazing testament to strength and durability and resilience, that these people can talk like this.

(End with excerpt from “I Want to Know What Love Is”)

Click HERE to see Clay's Indonesia field report for UNICEF.

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Pink Armchair said...

[b]berkeley[/b], I have admired this series of blogs very much. Great work, and I was incredibly proud to see our site linked on the home page of the OFC. It's wonderful that when people come here, this is what they will see. And perhaps it will help inspire people to give to UNICEF and TBAF.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, for this blog!! It's so interesting, I find things here that I haven't anywhere else -- and you're doing great work, for Clay and for the children of UNICEF and TBAF. Hope you keep it up!

Kathy in L.A.