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Shakira owes all to family bankruptcy

By Daniela Deane, for CNN
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Connector of the day: Shakira
  • The singer-songwriter is "obsessed" with child education
  • She decided to become successful when she was eight
  • Bankrupt parents took her to park to see disadvantaged kids
  • Believes education is key to peace and security
  • Shakira
  • Poverty
  • Colombia

London, England (CNN) -- Colombian singer Shakira, whose hit "Hips Don't Lie" is the most played record in American radio history, became a musical sensation and a global philanthropist because of her family's bankruptcy when she was eight years old.

When the singer was 18, she founded the Barefoot Foundation, a charity to help poor children in her native Colombia get an education. Later, she expanded her reach to become a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

And it all started when she had the rug pulled out from under her as a kid in Barranquilla, Colombia.

"I remember vividly the day which I entered our apartment and my dad had sold all the furniture we had, and the air-conditioning," Shakira told CNN. "We lost both our cars."

Shakira said she was "very upset."

"I couldn't believe my eyes, I couldn't believe how my parents allowed such a failure in business," she said.

Shakira said she "couldn't embrace bankruptcy so easily, so my parents took me to the park, where there were many kids who were orphans and barefoot and sniffing glue."

My parents took me to the park where there were many kids who were orphans and barefoot and sniffing glue

"They wanted to show me another reality that was much worse than mine," she said, "to make me gain perspective on things."

Shakira told CNN it was that visit to the park that changed her life.

"That day I made myself a promise," she said. "I promised that I would someday succeed to vindicate my parents' social and economic position. But I also wanted to do something about those kids I saw so abandoned by the state, abandoned to their own luck, without any chances to change their destinies."

The singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer and philanthropist described herself as "obsessed" with child education, and its contribution to national and global security.

The Grammy Award-winning Shakira, who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, said education "not only boosts economic growth, but also guarantees national and global security."

She said education is also the solution to paramilitary gang recruiting in Latin America.

"A child who lives in extreme poverty is ten times more likely to be recruited by the paramilitaries, or any kind of violent or extremist group, than one who receives an education and is safe at school," she said. "That's why education also promotes global stability, political stability, and peace."

Shakira said she has seen "with her two eyes how education transforms the lives of not only the kids, but entire communities."

"Education is without a doubt the best strategy to fight poverty," Shakira told CNN. "And if we all want a safer world, we have to invest in education."

"I like to think I'm using the spotlight that shines on me ... and shifting it to more important issues," she said.