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Selena Gomez: Kids want to help, too

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Selena Gomez helps kids
  • Actress and singer Selena Gomez is also UNICEF's youngest goodwill ambassador
  • She is also the spokeswoman for the organization's Trick-or-Treat campaign
  • Gomez on visiting Ghana: 'It makes you more aware of how fortunate you are'
  • Selena Gomez

Editor's Note: Voting is under way for the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year. The winner will be announced at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which airs Thanksgiving night, November 25, at 8 p.m. ET. See the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 and and cast your vote.

Selena Gomez came of age in the spotlight, and now the young actress and singer advocates for children as UNICEF's youngest goodwill ambassador.

Gomez, 18, has also been involved with CNN Heroes since 2008, when she served as a presenter at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." She recently sat down with CNN Heroes producer Allie Torgan to talk about the Heroes campaign and her humanitarian work. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Allie Torgan: Why did you decide to get involved with UNICEF?

Selena Gomez: I started working with them for the Trick-or-Treat campaign [a fundraiser where children go door-to-door to collect money on Halloween], and I ended up falling in love with what they do. There's 24,000 children that die a day from preventable causes like malaria, not getting enough food, dirty water, and UNICEF's goal is to make that number zero. They asked me to be their ambassador, so I help them out as much as I can.

Torgan: Tell me about your recent mission trip to Ghana.

Gomez: UNICEF chose Ghana because of its high child mortality, so we got to see exactly what UNICEF is doing to provide healthy clean water, education, and protect these kids from preventable diseases. I got to see firsthand, and I got to help out myself. It was a really humbling experience for me.

I remember a 14-year-old and his friends going to each village, telling everybody how they wanted an education. You think about how many kids hate school here and how much they just wish they didn't have to go to school. You know, I was one of those kids. I complained all the time about having to do homework and I wanted to go out and play, and these kids are begging for school. ... It was so powerful. It makes you more aware of how fortunate you are. There was this little kid playing with a bunch of plastic bags that he wrapped string around, and it was a soccer ball. That's all he needed. And you think about all the Game Boys and all the things that kids "need" to be entertained here. It was all about simplicity with them. I loved being around them. It got me excited to help more.

Torgan: Do you think your work is having an impact with kids here in the U.S.?

Gomez: I am very blessed to have a lot of fans, and basically my goal is to use my voice to educate them on all of these things. Kids want to help. You just need to tell them how. And you just need to encourage them.

Torgan: How would you describe a hero?

Gomez: A hero to me would be someone that truly believes in something. The passion and the drive of wanting to make the world a better place, or to help out and to contribute in some small way, that's a hero to me.

Torgan: Back in 2008, you were a presenter at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," and you helped honor Maria Ruiz, who helps children in Juarez, Mexico. What was that experience like, and what did you think of her?

Gomez: She was so amazing, and she was so sweet. She takes clothes and food across the border, and you could tell that everything that she does, she does because she wants to. But then that night was about her, and I loved that. It was a very good moment.

This award show is by far my favorite. It was so cool to see these people that help out and really genuinely care about everything they do. I loved it. I cried so many times, and I met some amazing people, and the whole time I was just very grateful to just be there. I'm looking forward to going again.