Singer Alicia Keys is best known for the Grammy-winning hits that have helped her sell more than 35 million albums worldwide. But for the past decade, she’s been a driving force behind Keep a Child Alive, an organization that provides AIDS treatment, orphan care, nutrition, and support services to hundreds of thousands of people in Africa.
During Keys’s first trip to Africa in 2003, she got a firsthand look at the devastation caused by AIDS and vowed to try to make a difference. She teamed up with activist Leigh Blake to cofound Keep a Child Alive; Keys now serves as its global ambassador.
She and the organization have found innovative ways to fund their work: In 2008, Keep a Child Alive became one of the earliest groups to make use of cell-phone fundraising, allowing donors to text a pledge in exchange for the download of a film, Alicia in Africa, featuring Keys. In 2010, the organization was the first to develop a smartphone-scannable bar code that supporters could use to donate. Also in 2010, during her pregnancy, Keys took five young Americans with her to South Africa to connect with children affected by AIDS. That trip became the subject of another documentary, Keep a Child Alive, again with Alicia Keys, that aired last December on World AIDS Day.
In Keys’s words, “Helping keep a child, or mother, or father or brother or sister alive means turning the worst epidemic of our lifetime into the greatest victory of our generation.”