Shakira Expanding Focus to Global Poverty

NEW YORK

Shakira, the highest-selling Colombian singing artist of all time and

 a longtime activist for Latin American’s poor children, plans to make her Colombian children’s foundation a global one in the near future.

Shakira said Barefoot, known as Pies Descalzos in her native Colombia, will start focusing on children worldwide later this year.

“We have a model that works,” Shakira said. “Under less than $2 a day, we can provide a kid with top quality education and the nutrition that they need to be able to function and be able to learn because a kid with an empty stomach cannot learn. So this model… has been so successful in my country, now I want to bring it to other countries in my small way.”

Shakira, who has sold 50 million records, made the comments last week after appearing at Columbia University with Spanish singing sensation Alejandro Sanz and the presidents of Mexico, University Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador and Panama. The event focused on the importance of education, nutrition and health intervention for Latin American children. The singers asked the presidents to adopt an agreement on combating child poverty during the upcoming Iberoamerican Summit in late October.

The event was sponsored by the Earth Institute at Columbia, led by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Shakira and Sanz are members of Latin America in Solidarity Action (the Spanish acronym is ALAS, or “wings”), a nonprofit coalition founded by Latin American artists, intellectuals and business leaders to promote social communities and early childhood development programs in Latin America. Earlier this year, ALAS held all-star fundraising concerts in Mexico and Argentina that helped secure $200 million in donations.

In attendance were Mexican President Felipe Calderon; Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez; the president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo; El Salvador’s president, Tony Saca; and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. Also on hand was Dominican-born baseball star Sammy Sosa, Panamanian musician Ruben Blades and English rocker Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, along with Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman and Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

“The presidents seem very committed and that’s what we need. We need all the leaders of Latin America to have a definite commitment toward our children (because) the children of Latin America are waiting for opportunities,” said Shakira in an interview after conference.

“Where I come from every child who is born poor will die poor, and we have to change this, and this is the moment to do it.,” she added. “We are at the threshold of a new wave of awareness and sensibility toward our children’s issues. But early childhood development should be at the top of our priorities and at the top of every president’s agenda.”

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