Colombian singer/songwriter Shakira (Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll) was born and raised in Barranquilla, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. As a teenager, she tried to fight illiteracy by teaching reading at a parochial school in the La Playa district of her hometown.
Shakira is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and also founded “Pies Descalzos” [literally, “bare feet” but known as the Barefoot Foundation] to improve education, nutrition, and the lives of the thousands of displaced children living in perilous conditions because of the violent internal conflict in Colombia. Throughout the years, she has dedicated millions of dollars to this area to build schools, provide sports equipment, and fund various programs for impoverished children. In 2006, the multiple Grammy award winner dedicated a $6 million school sponsored by her foundation; this was the fifth school Shakira’s foundation had built.
In a ceremony where she signed an agreement with the Latin American General Secretariat and the Organization of Latin American States on behalf of ALAS, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who had decorated her with a medal a few years ago, praised her work, stating that “Colombian people feel very proud of the work that Shakira is doing for the children of Colombia.” The agreement aims at attaining universal education for children in the region by 2021. ALAS— América Latina en Acción Solidaria [Latin America in Solidarity Action]—is a group of Latino artists that are fighting to help solve the social emergency facing millions of children in Latin America.
Earlier this month, the singer gave a speech about her foundation and her causes to the Oxford Union, the famous debating society in Oxford, England. Shakira says that her foundation’s work is all about “breaking the myth that quality education is the privilege of the few.”
For more on Pies Descalzos (and photos), see http://www.barefootfoundation.com/index_en.php
[Many thanks to Maurice Bibeau for bringing this information to my attention.]