Barefoot Foundation
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Mission and History


The Barefoot Foundation works to ensure that every child can exercise his or her right to a quality education. Our model helps displaced and vulnerable communities by addressing their unique needs.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation works to ensure that every Colombian child can exercise their right to a quality education. Their vision is to demonstrate a sustainable, replicable education model which provides quality education to Colombia’s most vulnerable people, thereby unlocking their intellectual, emotional and social potential.

Barefoot VideoHistory

In 1995, Shakira achieved her first international success with the album Pies Descalzos (Barefoot). As a young girl, Shakira witnessed the suffering of street children who slept in the park each night and she vowed to help them someday. When she achieved career success, she used it to make a difference in the lives of children, creating a Foundation that provides education and meals for poor Colombian children who cannot access such services. Her parents, William Mebarak and Nidia Rippol de Mebarak, headed the Foundation during the early years, working from Barranquilla, Colombia.

In 2003, Shakira asked former Minister of Foreign Relations and Minister of Education María Emma Mejía to preside over the Foundation and help expand its work to other parts of Colombia. The first Pies Descalzos School was built that year in Quibdó, a city along the Pacific coast where forced displacement rates are 35%.

Since 2003, Shakira’s Pies Descalzos Foundation has opened six schools serving disadvantaged children and their families through education, nutrition, income-generating projects and counseling. Shakira brought her education advocacy to UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador and is the Honorary Chair of the Global Campaign for Education, which holds governments responsible for their commitment to securing education for all.

Inspired by her global advocacy and the success of the Pies Descalzos Foundation in Colombia, Shakira founded the U.S.-based Barefoot Foundation in  2008. We support worldwide education and encourage governments to increase spending on universal education programs in developing countries. Help us continue to grow by joining the movement for universal education.

If we all join our voices with Shakira’s, we can create this real change!

To benefit all Latin American children, Shakira helped form ALAS (América Latina en Acción Solidaria) which is a coalition of artists and business leaders who are urging governments and philanthropists to increase spending on early childhood development.These programs help ensure that children enter school ready to learn. In 2008, Shakira and economist Jeffery Sachs spoke before Latin American heads of state at the Ibero-American Summit on behalf of ALAS. They urged leaders to commit to providing crucial early childhood development programs to all citizens in Latin America.

Shakira is the Chair of the Global Campaign for Education and also became UNICEF’s youngest Goodwill Ambassador in 2003. In this role, Shakira has visited Bangladesh to meet with government and NGO officials to learn how that country is proving education to its most vulnerable children.She has visited Washington, DC, where she met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and urged congress to pass the bipartisan Education for All Act that would help fund education for the 72 million children worldwide who are too poor to go to school. She has also partnered with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to publicize the need for a global response to universal education.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation’s first school in Quibdó continues to educate 750 boys and girls and employs municipal teachers who have undergone training to improve their professional skills. The Quibdó youth development center helps 240 juveniles and 120 household heads, teaching them dressmaking, ecotourism, arts and crafts, thus indirectly assisting 10,000 people.  

In 2004, Shakira and the Pies Descalzos Foundation turned their attention to Barranquilla, Shakira’s hometown, building two new neighborhood schools at Las Américas and Siete de Abril, two of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

That same year, Pies Descalzos extended its activities to Soacha, a Bogotá suburb with one of the highest rates of displaced Colombians. 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, Pies Descalzos focused on a comprehensive project which works with both the schools and the communities in which they reside. Project “Open School Doors” allows students and young people to participate in activities, including Movies Under the Stars (Cine en las Estrellas), Project Baton for young children (Programa Batuta), and other Youth and Literacy Programs. This methodology involves both children and parents and is complemented with income-generating programs that aim to make the project sustainable.

During 2007, they refined their education model to respond to new challenges. Pies Descalzos transformed its income-generating initiatives into parent cooperatives, which have so far created 250 new jobs, indirectly benefiting 10 neighborhoods. They plan for all income-generation programs to be self sustaining this year.

This history illustrates Pies Descalzos’ ability to creatively adapt their programs to serve each community’s unique needs as well as to work with the government to create a platform for broader, sustainable implementation. The Barefoot Foundation and Pies Descalzos continually improve our work based on what we learn.

In 2008, Pies Descalzos opened its most ambitious school yet, the state-of-the-art Fundación Pies Descalzos School in the Barranquilla’s Corregimiento La Playa district. Shakira attended the opening ceremony along with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Barranquilla’s Mayor Char. The school provides quality bilingual education for 1,800 impoverished students. The school is also a center of community life for a neighborhood suffering from poverty and displacement.It offers vocational training, income-generating projects, health services and programs for the entire community.Pies Descalzos serves seven times more students than they did in 2003 and is still growing.  The programs have grown in size and impact as they continue expanding. With the support of the Barefoot Foundation, Pies Descalzos is helping transform Colombia into a peaceful society that is committed to its most vulnerable citizens. Join Shakira in creating a new future for children and for Colombia.

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