Private Life » Singer opens up about difficult childhood

childhood Shakira
Pop superstar Shakira went from spoiled rich kid to hardship when her father's jewellery business went bankrupt - and the change in fortunes gave the singer a first-hand view of a life she'd never have known if her family hadn't failed.

In a telling essay Shakira has written for the upcoming `issue` of Newsweek magazine, the star recalls the family upheaval, which helped to turn her into a champion for the poor in her native Colombia.

She writes, "When I was seven-years-old, my hardworking father's jewelry business went bankrupt. I didn't know what the `word` 'bankrupt' meant, and when my parents sent me to stay with family friends in Los Angeles, while they addressed the situation, I assumed that I would return home to my normal routine.

"But, when I returned, it seemed everything had changed. Our two cars that I had ridden in to school or to play with my friends were gone. The air conditioner that cooled us during the brutally hot Colombian summers had been sold. Our color television had been traded in for a smaller, black-and-white version. Foods that I loved were replaced with the bland staples a mother buys when food becomes sustenance instead of something to be enjoyed.

"We had gone from being middle class to poor almost overnight, and from my 7-year-old child's perspective it was hard to imagine anything worse. I can still viscerally remember the seeming desperation of that moment."

But the hardship made Shakira stronger and she quickly realised she had taken so much for granted.

She adds, "My parents found ways to put our situation in perspective and to show me how fortunate we still were, especially given that, previously unbeknownst to me, so many families and children had so much less.

"Most vividly, I remember my father walking me by a park and watching the street children who lived there. They were my age and their faces didn't look all that different from mine or my friends, yet these children truly had nothing. They lived in the dirt, in tattered clothes and with bare feet, scrounging through garbage for anything to eat. Many sniffed glue to dull the pain of their existence.

"At that moment, I promised myself that if I was ever able to help, I would."

Since finding fame and fortune, Shakira has set up her own successful charitable foundation in Colombia, Pies Descalzos, to help the nation's poorest children. Earlier this month she announced plans to take her charity global.

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