Hips don’t lie about providing education to underprivileged young people.
Colombian recording artist and philanthropist Shakira received a Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland for her humanitarian efforts. Aware of the fact that Colombia has the highest population of internally displaced people, Shakira believed proper education for children and a gathering space for communities to hold town meetings would be essential for movement away from violence and the advancement of Colombia as a whole nation. With her humanitarian efforts, she is providing exactly that.
After the success of her self-titled album, Shakira founded the Colombia-based Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) Foundation, which focuses on building quality public schools in parts of Colombia where a good education is not guaranteed to all children. Later, she founded the US-based Barefoot Foundation, which strives to make education widely available for all children. These foundations aim to make their schools a center of the community, from which even the adults benefit, making the schools built and supported by the foundations unlike any other.
In her acceptance speech, Shakira affirmed her motivation for establishing her foundation and for investing in education in general by saying, “Today’s babies will drive tomorrow’s business. Their capacity to contribute will shape tomorrow’s societies, will solve tomorrow’s problems.” Earlier in the forum, during an interview, Shakira claimed withholding the necessary mental stimulation, sense of security, and nutrition from children is a societal problem. She emphasized that when a child is deprived of these essentials, it endangers more than just the individual child. It puts the community and the economy at risk.
“There is far too little awareness of and appreciation for the simple elements of early childhood development that are absolutely fundamental for growth,” she told the interviewer, “not only for individual children and their families, but for entire economies.”
With that in mind, Shakira’s foundations help to fill in the gap between what children living in poverty have and what those children need to grow into the best versions of themselves. The schools Pies Descalzos builds provide the education that both foundations claim is a right to all children; the schools also provide healthy meals, psychological services, and extracurricular opportunities (e.g. sports, dance, and music activities). In addition, the Barefoot Foundation built a school in Haiti after the earthquake, providing similar services to the children and the community.
Thus far, the Barefoot Foundation claims they’ve influenced 30,000 vulnerable children, and the Pies Descalzos Foundation claims to have benefited over 67,000 youths and adults. More than physical resources, Shakira invests her personal time and emotion into the efforts of her foundations by making time to visit the schools that her foundations built and interacting with the students.
At the end of her acceptance speech, Shakira called the audience – activists, business leaders, and more – to action, stating, “We need to apply the brains and strategies of business and the assets and human resources and talents of your companies to do social good and to solve social problems.” Shakira makes clear that the only way to move the world forward is to nurture those who define the future.
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