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Friday, October 19, 2007

Clay Featured in ABC News' UNICEF Article

Paris Hilton is going to Africa! Working with a humanitarian organization, Ms. Hilton will soon make a trip to Rwanda. ABC News published an article titled "Paris to Rwanda: Socialite Becomes Latest Star Hitched to Charity" detailing how some celebrities have used their voice to bring attentions to the issues plaguing Africa and African children.

In the article, Clay is quoted very often, about his 2005 trip to Uganda

Celebrities' association with humanitarian aid organizations is nothing new. Danny Kaye was one of the first actors to join a charitable organization when he was named a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in 1954. The comedian paved the way for other entertainers, among them Audrey Hepburn, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Beckham and Clay Aiken.


Attention that leads to big bucks. Aiken asked fans to donate money to Unicef to help the children in Lebanon and raised more than $75,000 in 24 hours.


Aiken made the cut when he was named a Unicef ambassador in 2004. The organization approached Aiken after hearing of his involvement with his own charity, the Bubel/Aiken foundation that helps young people with special needs.

Aiken said he felt obligated to help those in need.

"One of the most important responsibilities that you have if you're answering to the public is that you try to use that position in a way that serves the people you're trying to entertain," said Aiken. "I think you have a responsibility when you realize you have kids watching you. ... You can set an example to have kids doing drugs, or you can set an example to have kids helping their communities or their world."


Celebrities sit through classes to learn about Unicef and all the various issues that threaten children's survival around the world.

"We study as much as we possibly can before we go," said Aiken. "And I study after I go, because I want to be an expert on it. I think it's a disservice to the country you're going to and the children you're trying to help if you don't know what's going on and can't speak knowledgably about your experience.'

Aiken said the preparation is necessary in order to meet with health ministers and other officials on these trips.

"It wouldn't behoove anyone if we just went in to take pictures and came back," said Aiken. "The goal of all these visits and the reason we sit through extremely long sessions sometimes is so when we come back we know what we're talking about."


Aiken didn't know what to expect during his first visit to Uganda. He walked into the minimalist community center, where he expected nobody to know his name. Suddenly, he was greeted with bows from the crowd.

"When we walked in, they kept calling me your excellency," laughed Aiken. "I think both visits we've been on there have been misconceptions about how important I am."

All joking aside, no matter how famous -- or infamous -- a celebrity is, celebrity support is essential.


"It's usually a tent somewhere.That's our standard accommodation," said Szarkowski.

Aiken and others pay their own way when they travel on behalf of Unicef. However, once they reach their destination, they don't have the need for many expenses. Most nights they're sleeping in tents on the ground.

In addition to the bare bones travel accommodations, celebrities must cope with extremely dangerous situations. In order to avoid conflict, Prendergast said every minute detail of the trip must be mapped out.

"These trips have to be planned very well to ensure maximum impact and security," said Prendergast.


"I look to Angelina Jolie as a prime example of someone who is doing an amazing job," said Aiken. "She really has a passion and she goes in and makes a point to educate herself about what's going on and that's the only way to do it."


CDD supports:

Bubel Aiken Foundation GoodSearch for TBAF UNICEF