UN -Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf on Tuesday joined appeals to raise money for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says it may not be able to pay staff wages in December because of a $36 million budget deficit.

Assaf, who is from Gaza and was catapulted into the international spotlight by winning the Arab Idol talent series this year, said the agency was crucial for the survival of Palestinians. “I call upon all to help fund and support UNRWA because that is the only way the people can survive and have a bit of hope at the end of the tunnel,”

Assaf, who is on a US concert tour, said through a translator.

The singer, who is a goodwill ambassador for the agency, said he misses his family in Gaza and he was not sure when he would be able to return to the blockaded territory.

“I will never forget my roots,” said Assaf, 24, who was born in Libya but spent most of his life in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza. “I want to go back there soon to see my parents, but I am not going to give a date,” he said. “I miss my family, they cannot be here because of the blockade.”