American Idol and star and UNICEF ambassador Clay Aiken spotlights Afghanistan

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador and singer Clay Aiken is currently on his first visit to Afghanistan, aiming to raise awareness about the hope and promise he has seen in the young people of the war-torn country.

“The people here are very strong and they are very proud of their country,” Mr. Aiken told reporters in Kabul today, praising the “strength and conviction of the Afghan people and their ability to make sure that this country returns to its glory after such a long darkness.”

The singer, who gained a name on the televised talent competition ‘American Idol,’ has been a Goodwill Ambassador since 2004, has been in Afghanistan for the past week to see first-hand the grassroots health and education projects being delivered by UNICEF.
“It has been a long winter for Afghanistan and it is Spring time finally,” he said, adding that he is “thrilled” to be associated with UNICEF’s support for the country’s rebuilding efforts.

Traveling with UNICEF country representative for Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue and his high school teacher Mary Props, Mr. Aiken has visited schools in Kabul and in Bamiyan.

In Kabul, he met young women at Macfee High School who “have an amazing positive outlook on their future now,” he said.

Mr. Aiken called Bamiyan one of the most beautiful places he has ever seen, and mentioned one school he visited there in particular where boys and girls were being educated together. He also visited clinics where he had the opportunity to administer polio vaccine to a newborn baby.

“I have never in my life seen such a thirst and an excitement for learning,” he said, joking that his former teacher, Ms. Props, was very jealous of how eager students in Afghanistan are to attend school.

Calling the people of Afghanistan the country’s “greatest natural resource,” Mr. Aiken said that he also hopes to inform people in the United States, who he said too often associate Afghanistan with conflicts, troops and military activities, of the genuine desire on the part of children to learn.
“If we did see more about the kids [in the media], we will see more positive support and help,” noted Mr. Aiken.