By Isra Shah on
The trip to the remote, poverty stricken location marks Shakira’s continued presence in the effort to create educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in her home country.
Chocó, a Department of Colombia located in the western part of the country, is situated in a dense rainforest environment. Largely isolated from the rest of the nation, it is one of the Departments of Columbia with the worst living conditions for human life. Internal strife amongst the Colombian military, the local paramilitaries, and FARC guerillas has often left citizens caught in the crosshairs of what is often a violent conflict, and has caused three million people to flee their homes. As a result, Colombia is the country with the second largest population of displaced people in the world, after Sudan.
In this environment of extreme poverty and violence, the presence of the Foundation’s school means that students, 750 pupils in all, can learn in a safe facility and receive clean uniforms and one meal per day—the only guarantee for food for many of the children.
Providing access to education for those most in need has been a priority for the charity. Shakira reported to the BBC that, “One-hundred per cent of our kids that we have in our school here have been displaced or have families that have fled their home towns.”
The pop star’s efforts have not gone unnoticed for the citizens of Chocó, where excitement at the news of her arrival stems not only from Shakira’s status as a music icon, but also because of the impact of her school on the local community.
On a national level, Shakira’s goal for better education is beginning to get the notice of the Colombian government. In February, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe attended the opening ceremony for Pies Descalzos’ fifth flagship school, and awarded the singer a medal in recognition of her leadership.
When asked by a reporter why she chooses to do this type of work, she answered simply—"Why wouldn’t I?"
“Having been born and raised in a country like this one, being from a developing country impacts you and affects you in a different way. You just want to grow up and can’t wait to be someone in life to change the stuff that sometimes you feel so frustrated about…the stuff that I grew up seeing and not being able to settle for.”
Shakira created the Fondacion Pies Descalzos, or Barefeet Foundation, in 1995, after the success of her third album, Pies Descalzos. Its’ main goal is to fund schools for poor children all over Colombia. Visit the official website and watch the Barefoot Video to learn the stories of the children who participate in the Pies Descalzos program. A BBC video featuring an interview with Shakira about her school visit can be viewed here.
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