CARTAGENA: Pop superstar Shakira helped launch a $36 million education project for Colombian children as part of a series of events linked to the weekend Summit of the Americas.
The Colombian singer, who is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama, will also sing her country's national anthem at the opening ceremony for the gathering of 33 democratically elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere Saturday in Cartagena.
Her appearance Thursday sparked joy among residents of Ciudad Bicentenario, an Afro-Colombian district on the outskirts of Cartagena.
Joined by Colombia's First Lady, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, unveiled "FIRST THINGS FIRST," an initiative in which the Colombian government is contributing nearly $25 million while 18 private institutions are providing another $12 million to build 13 educational centers for 6,260 students.
At the summit focused on regional integration, poverty reduction and drugs, Shakira hopes to lobby on behalf of disadvantaged children and promote early childhood development, a venture she started with her Barefoot Foundation.
The first five years of life are "the most important in the life of a human being and decisive for his future," Shakira said in brief remarks. "We are convinced that investing in children early is better so they can develop all their potential in life."
Shakira was later to have a private dinner with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera, according to her spokesman.
Saturday, the star was also to take part in a forum with the private sector and the following day, she was scheduled to join a bilateral session between Santos and Obama. AGENCIES