By Laura Ferreiro
Pop stars Justin Bieber, Nelly Furtado, Usher and Jordin Sparks have teamed up with the Billboard Music Awards to raise funds and increase awareness of their favorite charities in a unique competition. Each musician has been actively involved in supporting the works of non-profit organizations whose missions range from fostering youth leadership to encouraging young people to give back to their communities, and they’re asking the public to vote on their favorite causes.
Usher explains that through the Boys and Girls Club, he met strong role models who made a real difference in his life. These experiences inspired him to start his own New Look Foundation so he could return the favor. “I started the New Look Foundation when I saw I could motivate youth through what I was doing,” Usher explains. “But there had to be something specific that would be helpful for them. And that was preparing them to be future leaders and giving them an opportunity they didn’t see.” Usher hopes his organization will help inspire future leaders to see beyond their present circumstances to great possibilities.
Furtado has been giving back to her community since she was a kid, whether it was playing ukulele for the elderly or working with special needs children. Now, as an ambassador for Free the Children, she is encouraging young people to find ways to give back. “If you look around in your community, no matter where you live or what you do, there’s always something you can do to help,” she says. “When I met Free The Children last year, I felt I’d joined forces with a group that I could be really passionate about. Free The Children is all about children raising money for other children in other places…some of their largest donations come from schools that are in at-risk communities all over North America.”
Meanwhile, Bieber says he makes a regular practice of finding creative ways to give back. “If I’m not giving back, I don’t think I’m doing my job,” he says. Bieber regularly donates a portion of his ticket sales to worthy causes, and makes a habit of visiting children’s hospitals and helping to make kids’ dreams come true through the Make A Wish Foundation. He also supports Pencils of Promise, which increases access to quality education in high-need communities throughout Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Finally, Sparks says she uses her celebrity platform for good, “or else what good is it?” She supports the M.A.D. (Making A Difference) campaign, which is a charitable campaign Sparks started with her brother, P.J., to motivate people to find something they’re passionate about and find a way to make a difference. “You see something and you get mad about it and it stirs your spirit,” she says.
To vote on your favorite non-profit organization, click here. The organization that gets the most votes will receive $20,000, and you’ll have a chance to win a trip to the 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 20.