UPDATE December 14, 2010: The Guardian refers to this post in hosting a discussion of the role of celebrities in development.
The celebrity aid phenomenon is not going away any time soon, so one wonders … are there any celebrities doing it better than others?
The Wall Street Journal had an interview with Shakira about her philanthropy efforts.
There are a few things to like:
(1) Shakira is concentrating on a place she knows well — her native coastal Colombia, including her hometown of Barranquilla. Points for local knowledge compared to Africa-touring celebrities who wouldn’t know a fufu stick from a groundnut. When she visits her projects, she’s visiting people she knows.
(Another nice touch is that the journalist interviewing Shakira is also from Barranquilla.)
(2) She’s starting to work with impoverished Latino kids in the US — another group she knows well from her own life experience. More points for local knowledge.
(3) She’s focusing on primary and secondary education, which apparently she again feels strongly about from her own experience. Points for specialization.
Where did the revenue from the world’s most valuable hips go?
Shakira’s latest contribution went to our hometown. In February 2009, the Barefoot Foundation inaugurated a $6 million K-12 mega-school. El colegio de Shakira, as it is known locally, gets only praise. A friend described it to me as an American institution, by which she meant state-of-the-art. The complex includes an auditorium, chemistry labs and even air conditioning. “Parents receive English classes and computer skills,” Shakira says, “and the entire neighborhood can play soccer there.” Families look for every possible way to move close to the school.
So, getting away from the idea that this blog will always and everywhere ridicule any celebrities doing philanthropy, here’s a case that looks better than many others.