As Colombia’s civil war winds down, the Latin rocker, 43, shares with Billboard his hopes for his Mi Sangre foundation, which has provided support for thousands of landmine victims since 2006.
The name Mi Sangre [My Blood] is inspired by the same sentiment behind my  album of the same name: It’s about my children, my children’s children, my land, my roots. It’s what hurts and what’s important to me. When I wrote [2000’s] “Fijate Bien” about landmine victims, I was living in Los Angeles; I would speak to my mother every day, as I still do, about what was going on back home in Colombia. But it wasn’t until I went and talked to people face-to-face that I understood the gravity of the situation. I remember being invited to sing for wounded soldiers. Hearing firsthand the stories of people who had been directly affected by the conflict, it moved me to the point that I said, “I want to do something.”
Colombia’s transition toward a peaceful society is our priority. The government is negotiating for peace with [left-wing guerrilla group] FARC. After nearly 60 years of fighting, so much blood has been spilled, but it’s a historic moment because we will be able to start a new chapter based on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Everyone always talks about the war, but no one is talking about the people, which is the richest resource any country has. So investing in them, that’s what we’re focused on. First, there’s the psychosocial support for children who have been victims of landmines or any form of violence from the conflict. Then there’s the educational part, which uses art to transform individuals into peace-building citizens. We identify leaders in at-risk communities and give them the tools so they can transcend their role as victims and become agents of change. Sometimes we think society changes slowly, but from what I’ve seen with Mi Sangre, it’s almost immediate. We have people who are committed on the ground, and it works. — As told to Angie Romero
To learn more about Mi Sangre’s programs and how to volunteer, go to FundacionMiSangre.org.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of Billboard.