Nelly Furtado donates $1M paid by Gadhafi to charity
Published Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:28PM EDT
Canadian singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado announced at WE Day that she will donate $1 million to Free the Children, using the same money she was paid by the Gadhafi clan for a private performance.
The charity focuses on education and development programs for youth in impoverished countries. Furtado said she hopes her donation will help empower young girls she met in Kenya.
"I left my heart in Kenya," she said. "I can't wait to get back and help these girls build a better future for themselves."
Half of Furtado's donation will go toward building an all-girls' secondary school in Kenya, for which she will match every dollar donated up to $500,000.
The school will provide 200 girls with free room, board and a comprehensive education to help them better their communities, Furtado said.
"I was inspired by the girls in Kenya, and I'm so inspired by all of you. With car washes, birthday money and bake sales you're helping children around the world. And I'm proud of you," Furtado told the crowd of 20,000 students at the Air Canada Centre.
The giddy group squealed for Joe Jonas and Nina Dobrev, and even the coolest young boys danced enthusiastically when Shawn Desman led them through the "WE Dance."
Students also heard from speakers and performers such as Danny Glover, Patch Adams, Rick Hansen, Classified, Kardinal Offishall, the Kenyan Boys Choir and first female president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson. Hearing them discuss issues such as disability, depression and poverty, they left genuinely inspired to get involved.
Eighth grader Richard Ositashvili held up a homemade "HERO" sign, excitedly thrusting it in the air when motivational speaker and activist Spencer West – who lost his legs at age five – took the stage. Ositashvili and his classmates came all the way from Ottawa's Emily Carr Middle School.
"Well even though he's different he still was able to make a big difference in the world," he said.
Ten-year-old Kayla Clark is a member of the Leadership Club at Poplar Road Junior Public School in Scarborough. The young freckly-faced girl was full of ideas Tuesday afternoon as her group left the building.
"Why don't we do, like, a fundraiser for other schools that maybe can't do the fun things we do, like Strawberry Fest?" the Grade 6 student pitched to club adviser Michelle Declute. "We could do it anywhere, even schools here."
It was exactly the reaction Declute had hoped for. Her students wore "I'm Part of the Change" T-shirts, and donned bobbling "ME TO WE" antenna-like headbands.
WE Day is an annual event put on by Free the Children to empower students here, across North America, on global and local issues.
Students had to earn their attendance to WE Day festivities with a promise of one local and one global change. Their tickets didn't cost money but rather volunteer hours at a local animal shelter or a class bake sale to raise money for world hunger.
Last year the Poplar Road Leadership Club raised $5,000 for Free the Children to build a well in Kenya, and this year – their first WE Day trip – they plan to raise another $2,000 for draught relief.
To Thank Furtado for her own substantial donation, Free the Children co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger had a special friend flown in from Kenya for the event.
Susan had been number 41 on the list at a Kenyan school that took just 40 girls. She rushed the stage Tuesday -- in her new school uniform -- to envelop Furtado in a hug, thanking her for all her work.
The funds for Furtado's new school come from a private performance the singer did in Italy for the Gadhafi clan. She announced in a February tweet that she would donate the $1 million to charity, but only revealed Tuesday that the money would go to Free the Children.
"It's an unusual circumstance, there's no question there," said Craig Kielburger of the money's origins.
"But she, nobly, wanted to make good with that money, and in giving that money to Africa, giving that money back to women ... we're honoured to be her partner in that."
The other half of Furtado's donation will go toward empowerment programs for young women in the Middle East.
"It's not a band-aid charity," Furtado said of her choice to partner with Free the Children. "They come in and work with communities. They let communities tell them what they want and need, and I'm honoured to be an ambassador."