PORT-AU-PRINCE – Colombian pop star Shakira met child survivors of Haiti's earthquake on Sunday as her charity prepared to build a school in the disaster-stricken Caribbean country.
The singer, who has already joined Hollywood actors and other global celebrities to raise funds for the victims of the January 12 earthquake, flew into the wrecked Haitian capital Port-au-Prince aboard a private jet.
At the planned site of her Barefoot Haiti school, she met about a hundred children, some of whom danced to her songs. She then toured a camp housing nearly 50,000 people on a golf course. There, she met US actor Sean Penn, whose own charity is also helping victims.
"We've come to make all the preparations to be able to start the building of a Barefoot school here in Haiti," Shakira told Reuters in a brief interview.
She explained that the school would be modeled on similar establishments created by her Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) Foundation, a charity that provides education, nutrition and psychological support to over 6,000 Colombian children displaced by violence.
"We think we can employ what we've learned (in Colombia) here, apply it in this country which needs it so much at the moment," Shakira added. The Haitian school would be built and run with other non-governmental organizations.
The Haiti quake, described by some experts as the deadliest natural disaster in modern history, may have killed more than 300,000 people, the Haitian government says. It also left more than a million people homeless, many of them young orphans.
Shakira said that providing education to Haitian children would be a key part of the reconstruction of the quake-shattered country, which even before the disaster was already the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.
"We need to think about the future of this country and of how Haiti's children can be useful to their societies tomorrow ... Education is one of the fundamental tools with which to develop and rebuild Haiti," she said.