Shakira Paying It Forward

by Marilyn Roca Enriquez in

Pies Descalzos outlook-12magazine

It’s easy to dismiss celebrities with "causes". We live in a world where people are famous for outrageous behavior, having an arrest record or being born into the right families. And then there’s Shakira, a tireless humanitarian who by the age of 38 has already amassed an impressive record of philanthropy. Here’s a brief rundown on the good works that Shakira has shepherded through her Foundation, Pies Descalzos: 

In 1997, Shakira created the Pies Descalzos Foundation after her first international success because of the concerned about the living conditions of children in vulnerable situations. In 2003, Shakira was named Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. By 2004, the Foundation began working with educational institutions called Las Americas and Siete de Abril, in Barranquilla, where 1,565 children started to receive the benefits of a nutritional program with personalized follow up and psychosocial support. 

By 2006, the Foundation extended its program to include 3,610 children and youth with a priority on literacy and mathematics.  As an initiative to build a new school in Barranquilla, Shakira gave a concert in the city in December and started the campaign called "Donate a Brick for $15,000," reaching a record of 52,000 donors who joined the initiative.  In 2007, the District of Barranquilla acquired the lands for the future construction of the Pies Descalzos school in the township of La Playa. The Foundation awarded university scholarships to the top students from schools and implemented the strategy for multiplication and training with young people known as "Young Educators.”

Photo courtesy of Pies Descalzos Foundation

Photo courtesy of Pies Descalzos Foundation

The Pies Descalzos Foundation School and Community Center in Barranquilla was opened with Shakira and other personalities in attendance. In addition, ground was broken on the construction of a new school in Cartagena (Bolívar).

After the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Shakira visited Port-au-Prince and pledged to support education in this country. During the month of June the Mango-Waka Waka campaign led by Shakira was started, aiming to raise funds for the construction of a multipurpose room at a school in Soweto (South Africa).

In 2011, a new project in the city of Cartagena began: the construction of a mega school in the area of Lomas del Peye. In addition to this, eight new classrooms were given to the Gabriel García Marquez School located in Altos de Cazucá in partnership with the Municipality of Soacha and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF). Thanks to the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Royalco, two new classrooms and a playroom were delivered in Quibdo.

In 2012, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Shakira spoke in front of the most important political and business leaders in the region, emphasizing the importance of investment in education. She joined with 30 public and private institutions to create the Alliance Primero lo Primero for children of 0-5 years old, a national strategy for early childhood, where the public and private sectors joined to build 13 centers for early intervention in Colombia. 

The year 2013 was important for the Pies Descalzos Foundation; 5,166 children and 67,000 members of the communities surrounding the three educational institutions in Barranquilla, Quibdo and Soacha benefited from programs sponsored by the Foundation. The Construction of the Educational Institution in Lomas del Peye, Cartagena was completed with an investment of $15,718,966 Colombian pesos- a big project for 1,700 children, their families and the community. In addition, for the work of 16 years, the Pies Descalzos Foundation was recognized among the five most admired organizations in Colombia, according to the Consultoria e Investigacion Cifras & Conceptos Company.

In March 2014, the Educational Institution of Pies Descalzos Foundation in Lomas del Peye, Cartagena (Colombia) opened its doors to approximately 1,700 students. It is also a center of community development for more than 34,000 residents of the community.  

In 2015, with this hashtag, #UpForSchool - http://www.aworldatschool. org/upforschool - Shakira launched a worldwide petition directed at the leaders and policy makers of the world for the 59 million children around the world who will never see a single day of school because of child labor, early marriage, conflict and discrimination. The petition reads in part, "We, the world's youth, teachers, parents and global citizens appeal to our governments to keep their promise made at the United Nations in 2000 to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. We are standing up to bring an end to the barriers preventing girls and boys from going to school, including forced work and early marriage, conflict and attacks on schools, exploitation and discrimination. All children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential.