By Tim Saunders on
Colombian pop star Shakira has written an article in the latest edition of Newsweek detailing the inspiration of her humanitarian work.
The 31-year-old has written candidly about how her parents sent her to stay with family friends in Los Angeles when she was seven following her father’s bankruptcy.
“We had gone from being middle class to poor almost overnight, and from my 7-year-old child’s perspective it was hard to imagine anything worse”, she wrote. “I can still viscerally remember the seeming desperation of that moment.”
After returning to Colombia, she remembers seeing poor street children in the park – “They were my age and their faces didn’t look all that different from mine or my friends’, yet these children truly had nothing. They lived in the dirt, in tattered clothes and with bare feet, scrounging through garbage for anything to eat. Many sniffed glue to dull the pain of their existence. Despite our situation, my parents wanted me to know that it could be far worse. At that moment, I promised myself that if I was ever able to help, I would.”
Shakira went on to release her first album – called “Pies Descalzos” (“Barefoot” in Spanish) – and set up a charitable foundation “to help kids like the ones I had seen in the park 10 years before and too many times since. I hoped that, as my life and career progressed, I could help poor children escape poverty and make progress in their own lives.”
Since it was established, Pies Descalzos has successfully served thousands of Colombia’s poorest children, providing nutritious meals, quality educations, counseling services and giving Colombia’s youth the chance to pull themselves out of the poverty cycle.
The singer is now taking her organization to the world to address the 72 million young children who do not attend primary school and the 226 million who are not in secondary school.
Shakira’s Newsweek story goes on to outline her global plans for her charity work, and how governments must work to assist in the education of their children.
“Education affects every aspect of economic development and global stability,” she wrote. “Research has shown that a single year of primary education creates a 10 to 20 percent increase in a woman’s wages later in life. Education also prevents disease: a young person with a secondary education is three times less likely to contract HIV. Education even leads to more efficient agriculture and improved nutrition.”
The singer – who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide – is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and, in December 2007, traveled to Bangladesh to visit UNICEF-supported education projects. She also met with women and children affected by Cyclone Sidr.
“We can be the first generation to make education universally available — providing it to all children, everywhere, with no excuses. A barefoot child I saw years ago in the park deserves the same opportunity as any other child.”
The entire article can be found at the Newsweek website.
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