Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

While preparing to release his first Spanish-language album in five years, Ricky Martin has launched a new initiative with the aim of fighting child pornography and prostitution worldwide.

Called People for the Children, the project is part of the Puerto Rico-based Ricky Martin Foundation, the nonprofit organization that helps a wide range of mostly children-focused institutions and projects. The foundation's humanitarian work won Martin the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award last year.

"I started to find out exactly what's happening with child prostitution worldwide, and the numbers are astonishing," Martin says. "In the next 10 years, it will be the single biggest problem for our society -- even bigger than the war against drugs. I'm not going to point out specific countries, but I am going to speak with every president and point out numbers and statistics."

Martin's first stop will be Mexico, where he will meet with President Vicente Fox and his wife while on a promotional tour.

In the meantime, People for the Children is becoming operational. The project will be based in Miami; the offices are currently headed by Mireille Bravo-Lluch, who has long worked for Martin in various capacities.

"Right now, we're just creating the strategies," says Bravo-Lluch, who plans to have a Web site and an office up and running by June. "The first thing we're doing is shooting a PSA [public service announcement] that we plan to air all over the world."

The PSA, which will be filmed in June (original plans to shoot last month were derailed because of travel constraints stemming from the Iraqi conflict), will feature the Dalai Lama with Martin, who will be the face of the project.

The initial objective, Bravo-Lluch says, is to create awareness and start collecting funds from different sources as well as to apply for various grants. The money will then be distributed to organizations in various countries. People for the Children plans to work with Casa Alianza, the Latin American branch of the New York-based Covenant House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense and rehabilitation of children in the streets of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. All initial funding will come in its entirety from the Ricky Martin Foundation.

Martin says his concern about child exploitation stemmed from his work with the Sabera Foundation, the star-studded organization that provides schooling and other aid for girls in India. Follow-up conversations with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, among other organizations, led to the creation of People for the Children.

"It's painful information," Martin says. "Many people change the subject. Infant prostitution [affects] 5-year-olds to 17-year-olds. Five-year-olds! I can't even imagine."

Short-term plans, he says, include "a concert with my friends," with funds going toward the project.





Excerpted from the May 24, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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