Photo courtesy of Gene Simmons Family Jewels
Years ago, Gene Simmons, the legendary, tongue-flashing rock icon of the band KISS, was sitting on a comfortable couch watching TV when the ChildFund commercial came on.
“The imagery was so stark,” he recalls. “The children did not have enough to eat — there was no infrastructure. I wanted to make a difference.”
And he did. Today, he sponsors more than 140 children worldwide through ChildFund. He and his wife, Shannon, met several of the children during a visit to Zambia in early May. They filmed the experience for their reality show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels. The episode aired Monday, June 25, on A&E.
“We came here with a TV show. ‘Let’s go to Africa and visit the children.’ It’s a nice sound bite,” Gene says. “But what happened along the way is that real life got in the way. We’re going to do something about this.”
Shannon adds, “Poverty and starvation … once you see it in person, you can’t walk away.”
“It’s just not fair — that these children don’t have a chance to grow up,” Gene says. “We’ve got to do something. There is no running water, no electricity. We’ve got to give them a chance.”
During the trip, the couple met 12 of their sponsored children. They provided learning materials and school supplies at each of the schools they visited. One sponsored child, Robam, had to walk a long distance to school. Not anymore. Gene and Shannon presented him with a bike, and he promptly climbed onto it and began to ride around the school yard. The other children cheered. This bike was not a toy for Robam. For him, it was transportation to school and a brighter future.
Gene and Shannon were inspired by the educational aspirations of the children they met. “They value education,” Gene says.
“They want to go to school,” Shannon says. “At school they are joyful, playing.”
“It’s our responsibility to take care of each other,” says Gene, who was raised by a single mom in tough conditions. “You don’t need to be a star. You don’t need to be rich.”
“When you are a child, you depend on an adult,” Shannon says. “When you don’t have an adult, you depend on people like ChildFund to help.”