Latin American pop superstar Shakira will be at this weekend's gathering of the Western Hemisphere's leaders advocating for her favorite issues: early childhood development and universal education.
The singer and philanthropist will attend the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, and meet with heads of state, including President Obama. She'll also perform the national anthem of her home country, Colombia, at the opening ceremonies.
The international celebrity and humanitarian started two groups, the Barefoot Foundation in the United States and Columbia, and the ALAS foundation in Panama, that deal with helping children reach their full potential. She's also serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In the United States, Mr. Obama appointed her to his President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
"We’ve seen an increase in the number of programs directed at children between 0 and 6 years old, but it is still not enough and 35 million children from lower-income communities can’t access high-quality early childhood education programs in [Latin America] today," Shakira told Forbes in an interview before the summit. "We have to keep working to build more centers, to train more teachers, and to involve more parents in their children’s education. But we not only need more programs, we need better ones."
Shakira has helped to start a $36 million education project for Colombian children, an effort announced as part of the events surrounding the weekend summit. She appeared Thursday in Cartagena with Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, Colombia's first lady, to announce a program to build 13 education centers for more than 6,000 students, according to the AFP news agency. The Colombian government will contribute almost $25 million and 18 private institutions will give $12 million.
Her Barefoot Foundation, which works with impoverished children, operates five schools in different regions of Colombia.
"I believe that every single one of us, celebrity or not, has a responsibility to get involved in trying to make a difference in the world," she told a Forbes interviewer. "All of us involved [in the Barefoot Foundation and ALAS] are very passionate about education and early childhood development. We are eager for a future without so much poverty and inequality, and we are fighting very hard to make it happen.
"That kind of determination and passion is what moves the needle on important social issues, whether it comes from a celebrity or not."
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