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Clay Aiken calls for Kenya’s kids to return to school

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently visited the East African countries of Somalia and Kenya, where UNICEF provides children with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the last in a series of blog posts he has written about his experience in the field.

In early July, after visiting Somalia, I traveled to Eldoret, in Kenya’s Rift Valley, to visit camps for internally displaced people. This is where some of the worst violence took place following the Kenya elections in early 2008. Thousands of children were made homeless by the unrest.

Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops. We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.


kenya_burntschool.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Although many schools were re-opened, far fewer children are turning up for class than before. And classes are taking place in schools that have been completely destroyed. I saw children sitting on rocks and bricks”which used to make up the foundations and roofs of their schools”using them now as desks and chairs.

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently visited the East African countries of Somalia and Kenya, where UNICEF provides children with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the last in a series of blog posts he has written about his experience in the field.

In early July, after visiting Somalia, I traveled to Eldoret, in Kenya’s Rift Valley, to visit camps for internally displaced people. This is where some of the worst violence took place following the Kenya elections in early 2008. Thousands of children were made homeless by the unrest.

Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops. We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.


kenya_burntschool.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Although many schools were re-opened, far fewer children are turning up for class than before. And classes are taking place in schools that have been completely destroyed. I saw children sitting on rocks and bricks”which used to make up the foundations and roofs of their schools”using them now as desks and chairs.

Fortunately, this was not the situation everywhere. In most IDP camps, UNICEF has provided classroom tents and School-in-a-Box kits, along with teaching and learning materials, and even desks and chairs.


kenya_schooltent.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Getting children back to school is vital for their protection, and helps build a sense of normalcy in their lives. The re-establishment of schools in the most difficult circumstances is a testament to the commitment of UNICEF and to Kenyans. Many displaced parents told UNICEF that getting their children back to school was their top priority.


kenya_clayaiken.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Every child has the right to an education. Education transforms lives and breaks the cycle of poverty that so many children are caught in. And an educated child will make sure his or her own children receive an education too. This is just another one of the many amazing ways UNICEF is helping children today, while also building a safer Kenya tomorrow.

Click here to learn more about UNICEF’s education programs.

50 Comments

  1. Bette Lewis
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Clay for that information. It is amazing what UNICEF can do if we continue to support it. I love seeing you with those children. In your eyes I can see the real meaning this work has for you and I am proud. I, of course, will continue to support UNICEF and the work they do and I know in my heart, that our safer, more peaceful world will come from these children as they learn and grow. Thank you again, Clay Aiken and UNICEF.

    Bette
    North Port, FL

  2. Mary
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Learning what these children face on a daily basis just breaks my heart. Thank goodness for people like Clay who make us aware and want to help. Yes education is critical and these children seem so eager to learn even in these terrible conditions.

  3. Linda
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank you UNICEF for helping the children of Somalia, and thank you Clay for your service.

  4. Denise
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    These pictures are so powerful, these people are so brave. How can I ever again complain about trivial upsets in my own life?

    Clay Aiken, words escape me now as I read this final entry into your journal of this trip to Africa. Can this also serve as an awakening to the many students in our own country, the great USA, who have been given every opportunity to learn and thrive, yet too many see that as a punishment of sorts? Can we open their eyes to their many blessings?

    Every day I am amazed at the determination of the UNICEF staff to bring respect and hope back to these children, the innocents, who have lost so much, been so challenged. My donation may be small, but I am commited to sharing the words and pictures that tell such an impelling story!!!

  5. Kathryn
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Every child deserves to have a childhood that includes education in a safe environment. Thank you UNICEF and Clay Aiken for bring this situation to my attention.

  6. smc
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Clay, for educating US. I’m sure there are many out there that want to help but just need some direction. You have helped to provide some of that.

  7. Flo
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your blog on the children of Somalia and Kenya. Looks like your trip was quite extensive. It is so disheartening to see all the devastation there. It also shows their determination to get an education, when they show up even in shells that used to be schools, and sit on rocks and bricks.

    I am so thankful that you and all the Unicef workers are there to help. I will certainly donate again, so we can help to build a safer environment for these children.

  8. skye
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    So many of us sit in our warm, safe houses and have no clue what goes on in some of these far away places. Thanks to UNICEF and people like Clay Aiken whose desire to help those in need
    for bringing attention to those forgotten.

    I love the picture of Mr. Aiken with the children who seem very happy to be in school
    despite the pitiful circumstances in which they find themselves.

  9. Deb Gona
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your posting, Clay, not only about your experiences in Somalia, but also, as I’m learning now, of your travels into Kenya.

    The first photo really does draw quite the contrast from the other two. What an illustration of the sheer determination to learn no matter the circumstances.

    Thank you for sharing this, and thank you to UNICEF for its continuing efforts in these and other countries around the world.

  10. katyMT
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Clay Aiken’s trip to Africa has certainly brought awareness of the need for help in Africa. I know that I have become more proactive toward trying to assist in many ways. What these children deal with and still have so much spirit that it fills me with hope.

  11. Debbie
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to know UNICEF has made some inroads in the rebuilding of Kenya, especially the advances achieved for the children.

    Thanks for keeping all of us informed, and thank YOU, Clay, for blogging with all the details. You are doing a tremendous job for them.

  12. Carol Cooke
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    It is so amazing how these children continue to attend classes even if its in the shell of a classroom without windows or a roof. I work in a high school with Special Education children, and I can’t even imagine them having to deal with such devastating circumstances.

    Thank you Clay, for all you do, and for bringing awareness to the world of this sad situation. I will continue to support UNICEF.

    Love, Carol
    Wantagh,NY

  13. Shelley
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Clay. You continue to educate US also. I will continue to donate to Unicef as I have for so many years.

  14. molly rogers
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you UNICEF for all the wonderful work that you do, and thank you Clay, you obviously care so much for these children and they certainly seem to reciprocate!

  15. mmberkeleyca
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    This is my favorite line in this Field Notes blog:

    [quote]The re-establishment of schools in the most difficult circumstances is a testament to the commitment of UNICEF and to Kenyans.[/quote]

    I love to see Clay acknowledge, yet again, how hard the people he visits are working to help themselves, despite tragedy, hardship and war. This is why offering assistance while working to establish a framework for peace is so important. There simply must be a stable core of families, even a small one, upon which to build.

    I have read nearly every Field Note blog and commented on quite a few of them but, as this series ends, I’d like to again thank UNICEF, Clay Aiken, and all of the ambassadors and staff who work so tirelessly to fulfill the most important mission of every human being:

    Love one another.

  16. John
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    We are so lucky in this country. It seems so primitive in other parts of the world that we don’t have access to on a daily basis. Thanks for the info and education.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Except “for the grace of God, there go I”..those children could be OUR children. I would like to suggest that when we go out to buy just a small notebook or other school supply for our own kids, we make an equal donation for the Somalian and Kenyan children thru UNICEF and in thanksgiving for the attention Clay Aiken is bringing to this great need. Can’t you just hear Clay singing, “but for the grace of God go I?”
    Here’s the mailing address: US Fund for UNICEF,
    125 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038

  18. Pat
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you once again, Clay Aiken, for bringing to light another situation in which UNICEF is so vital to securing the needs of children.

    Kudos to both Clay and UNICEF – keep up the good work!!

  19. Cindy
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    That first photo really says it all – how badly these children want to learn. Sitting in the shell of their school, on rocks and concrete – just for the chance to learn, for the hope of a better future. You’re right Clay – it is a testament to the people of Kenya.

    As North Americans, specifically Americans and Canadians, we take our right to a safe, free education for granted. Just look what these kids risk for that opportunity!

    The School-in-a-Box kits are amazing, and an easy way for those of us who can to help out these children. Thank you for making us aware!

  20. Carolyn
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    My heart breaks when I see the photos and hear your stories of these children trying to learn under such conditions, especially when I think of my own child and how we take our well-supplied schools in large, comfortable buildings so much for granted. As a mom, I have seen how education changes lives and I thank you and UNICEF for bringing this blessing to so many children throughout the world.

  21. emerson
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Clay,

    You continue to amaze and to impress me with your ongoing devotion to some of the world’s most vulnerable children. You are the personification of “Idol Gives Back”! You have changed lives both literally and figuratively. I donate to UNICEF because of your ability to put a human face on to some extremely complicated world issues. You have been inspired by the resilience of those whom have had to endure horrific violence, and through your thoughtful blogs, I am inspired by the ability of these people to rise above tremendous obstacles and to move forward with their lives. THANK YOU for all you do to generate awareness of the deplorable conditions in which some children/human beings are forced to exist, and for trying to restore joy and dignity back into their lives. You said from the very beginning that you wanted to use your IDOL platform to make a difference in people’s lives- and on every level possible- you have made a tremendous difference in this world.

    ~emerson

  22. Marlowe
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Clay – Thanks for telling us about Kenya. Those Unicef School-in-a-Box kits are great. God Bless you for taking on the children of the world.

  23. Pat
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Clay. Reading your field notes has really opened my eyes even more to the devastating and dangerous situation so many share. Thank God for organizations such as UNICEF and for people like yourself, who possess a love and dedication to making things better. I hope all who read this will jump on the bandwagon and lend a helping hand.

  24. tennie0121
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    To UNICEF, Clay, & all interested parties who support this wonderful organization. I want to say to all of you what a great job you have done & are still doing to improve conditions for the people who have undergone some of the most horrendous conditions anyone can imagine. Thank you clay for “using your voice” to get the message back to us, otherwise some of us would never know just how serious the plight of those very unfortunate people are. Clay, you are doing exactly what you said you wanted to do, “make a difference.” I applaud you for being who you are: a very caring person who is working for the betterment of your fellow man. May God continue to use you in seeing that those in need will have a better life through the organization you represent.

  25. Victoria
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I was unaware of this situation in Kenya. Thank you UNICEF and Clay Aiken for bringing it to my attention.

  26. Debbie
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your blogs Clay.
    My heart is heavy for the children but my
    pocket book is lighter.

    God Bless you and all those brave children.

  27. nancy
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much, Clay, for reminding us of the situation in Kenya. I find myself asking, “where is the outrage?” Sometimes I think that if you didn’t blog to focus us on the world’s problems, we would continue to see the world through our rose-coloured glasses, assuming that everywhere is as pleasant and peaceful as our Raleigh back yards. Thanks for all that you do.

  28. Con
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Please ! More field notes and photos . It brings it all home to my mind and my heart .

    Thank you for the report .

  29. Tiggy
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for keeping us informed about events happening around the world. There is precious little news about these places and if there is any, it isn’t in the forefront for long. We applaud and support your efforts and Clay’s in championing the rights of children in need. Keep up your wonderful work!

  30. Debbie H.
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the report, Clay. I really appreciate your efforts and what UNICEF is doing in places like Kenya and Somalia. We get so comfortable with our lives here in the U.S. and it’s easy not to think about those places and the difficult circumstances the people are in. The picture of the kids sitting on rocks in that broken down school is really something to see.

  31. kfccanada
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Impoverished as they may be, these schools are such a strong testament to the dedication of the local teachers and the perseverance of the children, their parents and UNICEF. The first school is in shambles but the teacher is still dressed as if she were in a major city school and the children are, as well.

    We have schools in the US and Canada who are struggling to keep students in school and Kenya and Somalia are struggling to provide the buildings needed as so many children want to attend. I am so impressed by these teachers and students.

    Thank you Clay for being such an informative advocate for UNICEF. You are exactly what these people need. We have learned so much more from you than we have ever learned before. These blogs should be required reading in all the classrooms of the world. I sincerely appreciate your hard work.

  32. Shelley
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Clay for all you do. And thank you Unicef. I’m a long time contributor.

  33. Anne
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    I love what Unicef accomplishes in their efforts to bring some sunshine to these children and I thank you for bringing attention to these efforts.

  34. Heather
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for the blogs on Somalia and Kenya and the pictures as well. The pictures say so much without any words needing to be spoken. It’s been interesting learning more about the situation in these two countries and hearing about your experiences there. I’d love to read more blogs about your Unicef travels if you’re so inclined.

    Kudos to Unicef for organizing these trips and making us all more aware of the world around us and where help is most urgently needed.

  35. pax
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    I firmly believe in the power of education to change the world. Thank you Clay for supporting UNICEF’s efforts in this way. I think their work in education is of great importance, not just to the children whose education they enable, but to the world. What happens in the world DOES affect us. Working toward a peaceful and educated world population will elevate us all.

  36. Shirley
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Clay, como no se escribir bien Ingles escribiré en español.
    Quiero agradecerte por abrirme los ojos sobre el trabajo que UNICEF hace en todo en mundo, principalmente en los lugares mas desprotegido donde la atrocidad humana no tiene nombre, soy una seguidora tuya, y gracias a tu trabajo realizado en esta grande institución he podido comprehender mucho mas lo que esta detrás de cada centavo que se dona.
    Aprecio a personas que ocupan su tiempo ayudando al próximo, y te puedo asegurar que UNICEF ha echo una gran cosa en escogerte como embajador de la buena voluntad, lo llevas en la sangre.
    Con todo mi respecto y mi amor te felicito por lo que eres y por lo que haces y a UNICEF también.
    Shirley, Brazil, SP.

    Translation (Provided by Google)
    Clay, as not write English well write in Spanish.
    I want to thank you for abrirme eye on the work that UNICEF does everything in the world, mainly in places where the most unprotected human atrocity has no name, I am a follower of yours, and thanks to your work in this great institution, I was able to comprehend much but what is behind every penny that is donated.
    I appreciate people who occupy their time helping the next, and I can assure you that UNICEF has a great echo in escogerte thing as an ambassador of goodwill, you are wearing it in blood.
    With all my respect and love you my congratulations on who you are and what you do and UNICEF also.
    Shirley, Brazil, SP.

  37. Jane Wong
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    “I expect to pass through life but once.
    If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good things I can do for any fellow being, let me do it now … as I shall not pass this way again.”

    ~ William Penn ~

    Thank you, Clay, for educating your fellowmen both locally and globally who will in turn help raise and spread awareness … contributing and reaching out in whatever ways, forms or means so that as many children as possible in these poor, war-torn and struggling countries will receive the appropriate education. And thanks to UNICEF for providing these education platforms.

    jane, Singapore

  38. CarylAnn
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    WOW – and people laugh when I tell them my favorite male singer is Clay Aiken -until I show them what he’s really all about – they don;t laugh so much after that – I hear the same thing over and over “Oh I didn’t know he did all that.” Too bad they don’t highlight what he does on the entertainment shows as much as they highlight the stupid stuff Brittney and Lindsey do….

  39. andee
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    As a high school teacher here in the U.S., I am humbled to see the pictures of the children so eager to learn that they are willing to use bricks, rocks, and tents in pursuit of an education. Here, we have climate controlled facilities, breakfast and lunch provided, as well as books and supplies for all. We also have too many students who are not as eager to learn.

    Thank you, UNICEF, and thank you, Clay, for providing these field notes. UNICEF is doing a wonderful job. As is their ambassador.

  40. jan
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Clay, you continue to amaze and inspire me with your dedication and devotion to the world’s children. I am a monthly pledge donor to Unicef. I am so proud and honored to be your fan.

  41. tennie
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I have commented before on this very same situation, but God has laid it on my heart to comment again on the magnificent work UNICEF & all of the co-workers are doing to bring attention to the sad conditions that some of us will never experience: “But for the grace of God go I” is very appropriate, Clay. This song should make everyone of us to sit up & take notice of just how blessed we are. I know in one way we are blessed is you, doing & going where God has led you to go. “Here I am, send me” love you to death for listening to your heart & doing what god has commissioned you to do. God bless you & UNICEF.

  42. Rose
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I am so proud of you and UNICEF, Clay, I could bust,,,I can’t give a lot ,,but as my grandma used to say,,”A penny in the pot,is better in than not”,,Bless you for all your work and my best to you and UNICEF,,

  43. Natalie
    Posted July 24, 2008 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Clay, the photos and stories you share with us about your travels really tug at my heartstrings. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for doing what you can to help these children. :)

  44. corinne
    Posted July 24, 2008 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    UNICEF does such wonderful work in places that many would deem dangerous. Yet, watching the smiles on the faces of the children as they interact with Clay Aiken, you can see how much they trust UNICEF and it’s representatives. They have no idea who Clay Aiken is, but he’s wearing that UNICEF armband so they know he’s not going to harm them.

    At the same time, Clay’s smile lights up everything and everyone around him with absolute joy. He obviously loves what he is doing and it is wonderful to see how children respond to him. He’s an intelligent guy with a big heart and it shows. Keep up the good work UNICEF, the children of the world need you now more than ever.

    And thank you Clay for letting us know what you have been up to lately. Glad you are back home, but grateful you had the courage to make this trip. Your priorities in life seem so different than most in the music business, you use your voice to educate and inspire, but not for material reward. What a wonderful teacher you are!

  45. ~beth
    Posted July 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Clay! As an American who was raised in Kenya I follow events their quite closely and yet, as a single mother, I am in no position to make a difference. I am grateful for what you are doing in what will always be my home country.

  46. elric
    Posted July 25, 2008 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a lifelong supporter of UNICEF. I can only hope that all nation’s governments will stop their petty politicking when it comes to providing for the welfare of all children, especially those in the more forgotten corners of the world.
    And Ambassador Aiken, please keep using your voice for good. Thanks!

  47. blue
    Posted July 30, 2008 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for bringing this humanitarian crisis to our attention. Sometimes we need a jolt to remind us how lucky most of us are and that we need to help others who may have to struggle everyday just to survive.

    Clay, your dedication to using your celebrity to help others continue to amaze me. You are a true inspiration.

  48. kamau benson
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    thanks for your good work in internally diplaced camp in nakuru [kenya] by providing tents

  49. Lewis
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Clay Aiken, for this piece of information. It’s really terrible that the children have to suffer from the unrest.

    It’s good that UNICEF’s employees help children in education issues. UNICEF works to ensure that every child has access to a quality education and is helping to make education more attainable for more children by providing school supplies.

  50. jovani jordan
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    You know that it is very nice to get good news. Yes, you are right that the education gives us our future and every child has the right to study at school.

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