Although she has visited Haiti, Rwanda and Guatemala on relief effort trips, until last week Christina Aguilera had not yet been to her father's native Ecuador.
"It felt much better to me that I was in a place that I felt so connected to and was able to give back to," said the singer and global spokesperson for Yum! Brands' World Hunger Relief.
Aguilera, 34, spent a few days in Quito from which she traveled by car into the farmland and impoverished areas in the countryside.
"This was a really interesting and raw way to go about it. It wasn't like I vacationed there in one of the more beautiful spots such as Galapagos Islands or things like that. I went into the fields and got to meet the women and children there who are really trying to survive," she said.
A volunteer spokesperson for the Yum! Brands' effort since 2009, Aguilera chose to visit Ecuador this year from a list provided to her.
"I definitely had always wanted to go visit where my dad comes from, the culture, you know, not having sort of a consistent relationship at all in my life with him and not really knowing him as I've gotten older through the years as well. You know, there's a history there. But, you know, it is a part of my blood and a part of my heritage and a part of my people," she said
The New York native filmed a public service announcement to raise hunger awareness that will be released next month. Yum! Brands Inc., the parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, said its eight-year-old World Hunger Relief initiative has raised $600 million in cash and food for the United Nations' World Food Programme and other organizations.
Her trip included visiting schools and providing lunch for children who have to travel far to get to school. "It takes these kids 45 minutes walking by themselves, alone, up a hill," she said.
"It's really hard for these kids and I couldn't wait to come back and tell my own kids these stories to ... better appreciate what they have," the mother of two said. "These kids, they just were the most well-mannered, sweet-natured, little kids."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.