Shakira Opens New School in Colombia: 'We Can Change Lives'


A young girl kisses Shakira during the inauguration of a school funded by her foundation 'Barefeet' in the neighborhood of Loma del Peye in Cartagena on February 24, 2014.

Global star Shakira returned to her home country of Colombia on Monday (Feb. 24) to inaugurate the eighth school funded by her non profit foundation, Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet). The school and community center, located in the low-income neighborhood of Lomas del Peyé in Cartagena, the tourist destination in the Atlantic Coast of Colombia, will serve 1,700 needy children ranging from day care to high school age.

"This is part of my advocacy: Promote access to universal education," Shakira told Billboard a few days earlier in an interview. The Lomás del Peyé school and community center, Shakira's sixth school in Colombia, continues her vision of making the school the center of the community.

"I want to demonstrate through the Pies Descalzos model how we can change the lives, not only of the children who come to school, but also their families. Entire communities can be transformed when you have a school that functions properly," said the singer, noting that when she built a school in her hometown of Barranquilla, there were no paved roads in the area. In Lomas del Peye, one of Cartagena's poorest neighborhoods,  much of the community had no water or power.

Hundreds of people lined the street leading to the school on Monday as Shakira walked up from her car carrying Milan, her one-year-old son with FC Barcelona soccer star Gerard Piqué. 

"I hope he can get his Colombian passport during the trip," Shakira told Billboard, nothing this was Milan's first visit to Colombia (at the end of the day, Milan posed with his brand new Colombian passport).

Young students from the new school greeted her and acted as the hosts of the media-studded event, which was also attended by first lady Maria Clemencia Rodríguez.  

"I'm so happy to see so many joyful faces in these students," said Shakira. "They'll have the tools necessary to become good citizens, far from violence and drugs. We dream of the day in which there will be no child without an education in Colombia."

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The Lomas del Peyé school, which also includes a library and community center, was designed by Colombian architect Giancarlo Mazzanti and funded with help from local Cartagena government, the Howard G Buffett Foundation, Fundación Mario Santo Domingo, Fundación FC Barcelona, Fundación Pacific Rubiales Energy, Ecopetrol, Colombian daily El Tiempo and the country's Institute for Child Welfare.

Shakira created her foundation in 1997, naming it after her hit album Pies Descalzos, and by 2003 had launched a massive nutrition program for displaced and marginalized children. In 2004, Pies Descalzos built its first school and community center in Chocó, one of Colombia's poorest states. To date, hundreds of students have graduated from Pies Descalzos schools and many have gone on to college educations. 

Shakira will release her new self-titled album March 25. She is also in the midst of her stint as a coach on "The Voice," which premiered Tuesday on NBC