Grammy-winning pop singer Rihanna was honored with the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award on Tuesday, February 28.
During her speech speech, Rihanna described how she was determined at a young age to find a way to help improve the lives of children in need. She explained to the audience that a person does not have to be rich in order to be a humanitarian; one only needs to have the determination to do whatever one can to help the community.
Rihanna said, “All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me that is a humanitarian.”
Harvard grants their annual Humanitarian of the Year Award to influential individuals, like Malala Yousafzai, who worked hard to improve the lives and communities of helpless people. Rihanna proved that she, too, is worthy of this award. Throughout her career, Rihanna founded and participated in multiple charities that were dedicated to raising money for different causes, which made her a candidate for the award.
In 2006, 18-year-old Rihanna founded her first nonprofit charity called Believe Foundation. The Believe Foundation was determined to raise awareness of life-threatening blood cancers, such as leukemia. Its goal was also to help terminally ill children receive bone marrow transplants if their families were not able to raise enough money for the transplant to take place.
As Rihanna’s fame increased even more, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, named in honor of her late grandmother who passed away from cancer. The Clara Lionel Foundation funds international programs that focus on the improvement of health, education, and arts. Rihanna’s foundation raised enough money to build a “state-of-the-art center of oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose breast cancer” in her home country of Barbados.
Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation even teamed up with Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project in order to create a scholarship program for university students. The program offered citizens from Barbados, U.S.A., Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, and Guyana who wish to attend university in America a $5,000 to $50,000 scholarship, which can be renewed for three more years or until the student earns his/her bachelor’s degree.
Freshman Grace Holmes said, “Even though Rihanna is a high school drop out, I still really enjoy the fact that she stresses the importance of having a high education.”
Rihanna also participated in multiple HIV/AIDS fundraisers that raised money for more research and medical treatment. In 2014, Rihanna teamed up with Mac AIDS Fund and created a Viva Glam lipstick. The money earned from sales went to Mac AIDS Fund, raising $60 million. Another $2 million was donated to another AIDS foundation called UNAIDS.
Another fundraiser that Rihanna took part in was H&M’s “Fashion Against AIDS” project. Rihanna designed clothes for H&M’s new line and, once again, the money earned from Rihanna’s clothing line went to the company’s AIDS foundation.
Recently, Rihanna teamed up with Dior, a famous French brand, to sell “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirts. Dior announced that a portion of the money earned from sales will be going to Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation. Rihanna says she will continue to participate in more charities and fundraisers.
Freshman Justin Tran said, “It is nice to know that someone as big as Rihanna is using her influence and wealth to help out the community. She is a great role model.”
What does it take to be considered an influential humanitarian?