By SHELLIE FRAI
Grammy award-winning singer Rihanna is no longer just recognized for her influence in the music and fashion industries but also for her impactful involvement in a number of charitable causes.
On Tuesday, Rihanna accepted the Harvard Foundation’s prestigious 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award. It is an honor that was given to gender-right activist Malala Yousafzai and workers-right activist Dolores Huerta in years past.
For most of Rihanna’s career she has worked to better the lives of children, the poverty-stricken and the sick.
When she was just 18 she founded the BELIEVE Foundation, a charity to help critically ill children.
Six years later, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, after her grandmother passed away from cancer, where she was able to build a state-of-the-art oncology center in her hometown of Barbados.
As a pop star and fashion icon she has used her influence to become a global advocate for access to healthcare, women empowerment and education.
She has served as an ambassador to the UNICEF Tap Project, which raises money for clean drinking water, as well as being involved in the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which helps children get an education in more than 60 developing countries.
When she accepted her award, Rihanna gave an inspiring speech that was followed by a standing ovation from the crowd, which included dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana.
She explained how she use to watch television commercials that asked to donate 25 cents to save the life of a child that was suffering. She would wonder how many quarters could save all the kids in Africa.
“People make it seem way too hard, man. The truth is, and what that little girl watching those commercials didn’t know, is that you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian. You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t gotta be famous,” said Rihanna accepting her award.
While, Rihanna’s philanthropic endeavors include a global scholarship program and bringing education to developing countries, Rihanna herself has never attended college.
In her speech, she acknowledged her regret for never going to college and her wish to be able to go.
“I mean I wish I was [college educated], especially today. I might come back. So, I made it to Harvard. Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.”