He visited a clinic vaccinating children from deadly, preventable diseases including pneumonia, and a program that houses and educates young girls who have been subsisting on landfills. Video of his encounters will be part of NBC's Red Nose Day USA special airing Thursday (8-10 p.m EDT) with host Terry Crews.
Performances by Sting, Josh Groban, John Legend, Chrissy Metz, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton, and a sketch with "Saturday Night Live" players Michael Che, Colin Jost and Kate McKinnon are part of the special. Other celebrities participating include Julia Roberts, Gloria Estefan, Damian Lewis, Kal Penn, Saoirse Ronan, Ben Stiller, Chrissy Teigen, Connie Britton, Lilly Singh, Susan Kelechi Watson and Daryl Hall and John Oates.
The Red Nose Day campaign , in its fifth year in America, is run by the nonprofit Comic Relief USA. It's raised close to $150 million, including through donations at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, to support programs for children in the U.S. and other countries. Red Nose Day originated in Britain more than 30 years ago and reports more than $1 billion in donations internationally.
Ventimiglia, who plays patriarch Jack on NBC's drama "This Is Us," made his African trip after appearing on previous Red Nose Day specials. He's also a longtime supporter of U.S. veterans' causes, including traveling with the USO to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This was the first time that I'd been invited to see the challenges that these kids were living in," Ventimiglia said. He witnessed children rummaging through trash dumps for items to sell and even food to eat.
"It's hard to imagine that this is average life for a human being," the actor said, and he was glad to put the goodwill he's gained playing Jack to good use. "Hopefully, people's familiarity with me and an interest in where I might be spending my time will lead to some good donations that are going to help kids out," he said.