As part of “American Idol: Idol Gives Back,” Season 7 winner David Cook has been in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia, working with the United Nations and the Biruh Tesfa program to empower adolescent girls and help provide them with an education.
“When you hear ‘Africa,’ I immediately think impoverished,” Cook says. “But I came here and was completely shocked by this country, in an extremely positive way. The people here are so amazingly sweet. They’re so accommodating. The city is very lush, very green — it definitely has an infrastructure in place.”
Cook is currently in the process of putting together his next album and he says that the record will likely be heavily influenced by his experience in Africa. “It’d be really hard to fathom that this trip wouldn’t [find its way into the music that I’m writing]. For anybody that isn’t completely self-absorbed it’s impossible to come into this kind of situation and not be moved by it, not be changed by it.”
One girl in particular may find herself the subject of one of Cook’s songs. “She’s a 7-year-old girl named Magdas. Both of her parents have passed away, and she’s been at this school for seven months,” Cook tells us. “Forgive me, because whatever I say about this girl is not going to come across over the phone as well as it would if you were there to meet her. She’s one of the most vibrant, joyous girls I’ve ever met.”
“These girls genuinely want to learn,” Cook says. He notes that a donation of $5 through the “Idol Gives Back” program, which airs on FOX Wednesday, April 21 at 8 p.m. ET, can provide an underprivileged girl with the uniform and notebook required to attend school.
“It’s inspiring, to see a 7-year-old girl want to build a better future for herself. I remember being 7 years old and I didn’t have that kind of foresight. These girls are wise beyond their years.”
Cook is looking forward to coming home tonight and beginning his work to create awareness for the Biruh Tesfa project. “It’s something that needs immediate attention,” he says. “Girls that don’t get an education here are immensely more likely to fall into the sex trade or domestic servitude, and that opens them up to so many other things — HIV is one of the main killers here. To see that first hand, I would almost say that it’s a definite that I’m going to bring that back and it’s going to find its way into my career path.”
More on ‘Idol':