Joel and Benji Madden Take UNICEF Trip to Africa
The Good Charlotte rockers visit - and perform - for refugees and children in the Central African Republic
In addition to “rock star” and “new dad,” Joel Madden has another important title to add to his resume: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
The Good Charlotte singer, along with twin brother Benji, returned from Africa in early November after they traveled to the Central African Republic on a field visit with UNICEF, where they met with Darfur refugees and experienced first-hand how widespread childhood poverty is in region.
“It was hard,” Joel, 29, tells PEOPLE about the week-long trip and the “dangerous” area he visited. “When you see all the kids you think about your own child.”
During their visit the brothers stopped by Sam Ouandja – a diamond-mining center that rebels have attacked and now hosts 3,000 Darfur refugees – to visit the school’s children and learn about several problems plaguing the area, including as malaria, AIDS, malnourishment and poverty.
“I see 25,000 fans in stadiums we play to regularly,” Joel told UNICEF. “I can visualize that number and it gives me chills to think that many children under five die everyday from preventable causes.”
“This trip taught me one major way we can tackle this and help reduce that number to zero is by making sure schools and communities get better access to safe water and sanitation facilities,” he adds. Joel will serve as the 2009 spokesman for UNICEF’s clean water campaign, the Tap Project.
Before returning back to the States, the Maddens also performed a series of outdoor concerts for children in San Oandja and Bangui, the country’s capital.
“Becoming an ambassador to UNICEF was a big honor and opportunity for me to get involved internationally,” Joel tells PEOPLE, whose other charity work includes The Richie-Madden Children’s Foundation, which he launched with girlfriend Nicole Richie. “More opportunities have come to do great things for children.”
For more pictures of Joel and Benji on their trip to Africa, visit UNICEF‘s Web site.
• Additional reporting by KIMBERLY LANSING