The Spanish Language Blog

Nowadays there are many admirable, famous figures in the world who as well as leading successful careers have helped and are helping to make a real difference in our everyday society whether it be by campaigning for the protection of the environment orby fighting against poverty, homelessness or other social injustices. Perhaps when we think about great role models our thoughts turn to people such as the late Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, or even Richard Branson,the founder of Virgin Group, for his charity Virgin Unite. However, what about in the Spanish-speaking world? Are there any Hispanic figures whose examples we should seek to emulate? This article will aim to look at just a handful of the Hispanics who are trying to change the world for the better, examining the initiatives they have carried out and are carrying out to help people less fortunate than themselves and to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.


Let’s start with the music industry. Shakira is an internationally recognized artist who has won countless awards. However, she is perhaps less well-known for her tireless charity work. As a United Nations Children´s Fund (UNICEF) Good Will Ambassador she set up “la Fundación Pies Descalzos” (the Barefoot Foundation) in 1997 which aims to help poverty-stricken children in her native Colombia and which is seeking to expand its efforts to other nations. As a result of this charity´s work several schools have opened throughout Colombia funded by the foundation and Shakira including one on her 32nd Birthday.  Another organization which this singer played an instrumental part in founding is the “Fundacion América Latina en Acción Solidaria” (ALAS- The Wings Foundation Latin America in Solidary Action). This charity, launched in Panama, aims to provide educational and nutritional programs to malnourished and poverty-stricken children across Latin America and the Caribbean. To help fulfil this goal two, free concerts took place in 2008 to educate the public about child poverty in Latin America. Shakira has also been an important figure in promoting environmental initiatives. For example, in 2007 she participated in a Live Earth concert which helped raise awareness of climate change and in 2011 she donated money and contributed to the rebuilding of a school which was damaged by the earthquake in Haiti.

Antonio Banderas

We have looked at one Latin-American role model who has used her money and time to reach out to children in need but Spain also has its fair share of inspiring individuals.  In this article we will look at just one of them, Antonio Banderas. This world-renowned actor from Málaga is known for films such as the Shrek franchise and Desperado. However, he is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.  As part of this role he acts as a voice for the poor trying to promote the fulfilment of the Millennium Developments Goals, a set of 8 goals proposed at the 2000 Millennium Summit of the United Nations, which aim to halve poverty in countries such as Africa and Latin America by the end of 2015.  In 2013 on International Women’s Day, Banderas also released a video appealing for an end to violence against women.

Furthermore, he has collaborated with an international conservation and advocacy association, called Oceana, which tries to protect and preserve the world’s oceans.  In 2005 he recorded several Public Service Announcements deploring the use of bottom trawling, a commercial fishing method where a net is dragged along the sea floor, and raising awareness of the damage it causes to marine life. 


More recently, while filming the Expendables 3 in 2014, Antonio lent his support to the Bulgarian “I Can Too” campaign which aims to support children with special needs, their families and the centreswhich look after them.

Pope Francis

To finish off this article let us return to Latin America.  The final individual that I want to discuss is the leader of a religion, Pope Francis. However, whatever our religious opinions whether we are atheist or devoutly catholic, I think we can all learn from his humility, simple attitude and efforts to deal with some of society´s toughest problems.  In 2014 the Argentinian pontiff met with fellowworld leaders from many different faithsto discussmodern-day slavery with human trafficking and prostitution being two issues on the agenda. This summit, organized by the Global Freedom Network, a multi-faith antislavery association,resulted in the signing of a declaration aiming to rid the world of slavery by 2020. The pope has also worked hard to defend, interact with and serve Rome´s outcasts. In 2013 news reports suggested that Francis had possibly been sneaking out of the Vatican at night to meet homeless people giving them food and money. Moreover, to celebrate his 77th birthday he invited four homeless people to have breakfast with him.  A year later, again on his birthday, he instructed his chief alms giver and the head of his charity work to hand out 400 sleeping bags to people on the streets and he also greeted and embraced a group of homeless men and women. Finally, Francis again showed his concern for the poor by commissioning modern, state of the art shower blocks to be built which were opened in 2015. These facilities allow homeless people to get clean and shave while also providing them with basic toiletries.

In conclusion, in this article we have seen just three of the many Hispanic figures who are using their time, money, resources and positions to help downtrodden, impoverished and marginalized people in today’s world. And we can follow in their footsteps. We may not have the time or money to set up our own charities but we can make small donations to existing organizations such as Oxfam and those mentioned in this article.  We can also volunteer for charities and other non-governmental organizations. Just thinking about where and how we dispose of our waste can help to stop our oceans from becoming polluted. Not buying products such as corals and seashells will also go some way to preserving our marine habitats. Or if we want to help the homeless like Pope Francis just some of the things we can do include volunteering at soup kitchens and packing food to give them when we leave the house. These are all small steps but they will make a world of difference. We can be role models, just like the individuals in this article, doing our bit to create a more equal, environmentally friendly, harmonious and peaceful planet while encouraging our family and friends to do the same

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