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MensajeTema: Our History   Jue 11 Sep 2008, 3:03 pm

In 1995 Shakira marked her first international success with the album Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet). At this time, she decided to create a Foundation by the same name to help poor and homeless children who had inadequate nutrition and no access to educational services. Her parents, Nidia Ripoll de Mebarak and William Mebarak, headed the Foundation in the early years, working specifically in various activities in the city of Barranquilla.

In 2003, Shakira asked former Minister of Foreign Relations and Minister of Education María Emma Mejía to preside over the Foundation and to extend the work to other areas of the country. That same year, the first Pies Descalzos school was built in Quibdó, a city along the Colombian Pacific coast where forced displacement figures are around 35%.

The school currently provides educational services for 750 boys and girls, employing 26 municipal teachers who have undergone training to improve their professional skills. There is a youth development center which assists a population of 240 juveniles and 120 heads of households, teaching them dressmaking, ecotourism and arts and crafts. The benefits are felt in the nearby La Victoria community and surrounding neighborhoods, with positive results for the nearly 7,000 residents.

In 2004, Shakira and the Pies Descalzos Foundation turned their to Barranquilla, Shakira’s hometown, building two new neighborhood schools at Las Américas and Siete de Abril, two of the poorest neighborhoods in the Caribbean city. To date, our work has concentrated on Escuela 202 school, with 680 children.

That same year, Pies Descalzos extended its activities to Soacha, a suburb on the outskirts of Bogotá which, according to the Colombian government’s Social Action agency, has one of the highest rates of incoming victims of displacement. The work began at Escuela Gabriel García Márquez and Escuela El Minuto schools in the Altos de Cazucá neighborhood, providing opportunities for another 1,300 children.

During 2005 and 2006, the Foundation concentrated its efforts on a more comprehensive project which would work not only with the schools, but also with the communities. Project “Open School Doors” allows students and young people to participate in various activities, including Movies Under the Stars (Cine en las Estrellas), Project Baton (Programa Batuta), Youth Programs and Literacy Programs. This innovative methodology involves children and parents and is complemented with income-generating programs that make the project sustainable in the long run.

In 2007 we concentrated all our efforts, as well as the efforts of our donors, on improving the quality of the education provided, by choosing an innovative pedagogical model for each of our schools. Additionally, 2007 was a year during which we were able to solidify the income-generating initiatives though parent cooperatives, which have so far created 250 new jobs.

The Foundation is facing its biggest challenge yet during 2007 and 2008: with the help of public, private and multilateral organizations and financial contributions by Shakira and other donors, we plan to build another Fundación Pies Descalzos school in the Corregimiento La Playa district in Barranquilla. The new school will expand the academic and community programs, reaching out to more than 21,000 residents in the region.

Currently, the Pies Descalzos Foundation programs are assisting 4,020 children and adolescents in our schools and vocational centers.

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