In Cartagena, Columbia, one-third of residents live at or below the poverty line. In addition, Colombian government reports that nearly 20% of girls between 15 and 19 years old are or have been pregnant, a statistic that is nearly triple the U.S. rate.
These staggering statistics, and the hope of transforming her own grief from her 16-month-old son's tragic death into something positive, are what inspired Catalina Escobar to create an organization to combat the negative consequences of poverty in Columbia including teenage pregnancy, infant mortality and overall poor health of teenage mothers and their children.
Catalina Escobar founded the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation, named for her late son, in 2000 with a vision of empowering young teenage mothers and preventing infant mortality in Cartagena. She chose to sell her successful international trading company and dedicate herself to helping the city's most impoverished citizens. In the last 10 years, the foundation has brought health care to tens of thousands of children in Cartagena and provided more than 2,000 teenage mothers with counseling, education and job training.
In 2000, the child mortality rate in Cartagena was 48.4 deaths per 1000 live births, while nationally the rate was 23.96. The majority of the deaths were under one year of age and resulted from preventable causes. Catalina Escobar wanted to change these numbers, and she has. Since the year 2002, 3,755 babes have been saved and the infant mortality rate decreased by 81% in the first seven years.
The Gomez-Escobar family based the foundation's structure on solid business parameters with the aim of a long-term sustainability. Escobar recognized that in order to design a socially committed organization she needed to study the statistics on infant mortality and teenage pregnancy, and to correlate these statistics with global policies such as the Millennium Development Goals. The foundation was designed as a social enterprise that would be managed and administered as any large company that generates profits, but instead would be measured by social impact.
Donating school supplies for teen mothers gives them the opportunity to be more than they could ever dream.With your help they can be given the opportunity to support both themselves and their children.
Teenage mothers can finish high school, take computer classes or learn vocational skills like sewing, jewelry-making and cosmetology. The mothers also make and sell products at the center's bakery, which helps fund the program.