Canadian country pop singer Shania Twain has started a charity called Shania Kids Can that she hopes will open opportunities for talented boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds.
Speaking on CBC Radio's The Current on Thursday, Twain said she relates to underprivileged children because she grew up poor herself.
Twain will host The Current on Friday, when she will speak more about her plans for Shania Kids Can. She will also interview Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, who created 1GOAL, a charity that aims to reach the 72 million children worldwide who do not have access to education.
Twain said in an interview that she began singing as a teenager for $25 or $50 an engagement, money that immediately went to the family finances.
"We went in and out of different phases, and I'm sure that's what's happening to many families," she said. "My dad had a job from time to time, and we could shop for groceries every week, but sometimes we'd go for a month without shopping," she said.
Twain, who was born in Windsor, Ont., and grew up in Timmins, said her family was not troubled or abusive, just poor. She recalled washing clothes by hand because they couldn't afford the laundromat and having the heat turned off because her parents had to choose which bill they would pay — the heat or the electricity.
'I've reached a point I never imagined, and luck played a big role in that.' —Shania Twain
"It's an endless chain of trying to get by and living in a world of haves when you were a have-not," said Twain, now 44.
"You were humiliated by the fact you went to school and your clothes weren't clean or you didn't have a lunch."
Twain loves her hometown and has great memories of growing up there, she said. She was in Timmins on New Year's Day to carry the Olympic torch as part of the national relay leading up to the Winter Games in Vancouver next month.
Twain said she wants to make a difference in the lives of today's children.
She said growing up poor "taught me to be resilient, to be patient, that life has its ups and downs," Twain said. "I don't regret it — it made me strong — but I don't want anyone else to have go through it."
Twain, who achieved international success 15 years ago with The Woman In Me, said her achievements owe something to her background, but a lot to chance.
"I've reached a point I never imagined, and luck played a big role in that, and it's a shame if we leave luck to do it," she said.
Her Shania Kids Can charity aims to give underprivileged children the chance to play music or take lessons their families could not otherwise afford. She intends to be closely involved, visiting schools and finding out how to make a difference in children's lives.