On Sunday, February 28, Rihanna was named Humanitarian of the Year by Harvard University following in the footsteps of activists and international political figures including Malala Yousafzai and Ban Ki Moon.
Taking to the stage to accept the honor, the 29-year-old delivered a surprisingly down-to-earth speech before a screaming audience of fans.
Funny, poignant and full of hope, Riri kicked off the message with a little joke: "So I made it to Harvard", she said with a flip of her ponytail. "Never thought I'd be able to say that in my life..."
The Bajan went on to explain how she set up her first charity while still in her teens. Recalling how, as a child, she'd watch fundraising ads hoping to "save a child's life for 25 cents", she says:
"I would say to myself you know, 'when I grow up, when I can get rich, I’mma save kids all over the world.' I just didn’t know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager."
Urging her audience never to downplay any acts of kindness and calling for action, she went on to say:
"You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t gotta be famous. You don’t even have to be college-educated [...] I want to challenge each of you to make a commitment to help one person: one organisation, one situation that touches your heart."
Work, work, work, work, work . Give, give, give, give, give
The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations awarded Rihanna for her work in her native island of Barbados and for the various charities she has founded over the years.
Aged just 18, Riri founded the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program (named after her grandmother and grandfather) to support students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries.
More recently, she sponsored the construction of a massive, state-of-the-art breast cancer facility at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in her home city of Bridgetown, Barbados.
Rihanna also supports both the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, a multiyear campaign that will provide children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, with priority attention given to girls and those affected by a lack of access to education in the world today.
She has also performed a number of charity concerts donating all funds to the aforementioned foundation and charities.