Many of the children Catalina Escobar sees come into her program in Cartagena, Colombia, are from families earning minimum wages or less without steady jobs or income. Twenty percent of these families are living on less than $2 per person, per day. These families crowd into shared housing with only one or two bedrooms, in dwellings located in areas of Cartagena rife with gang violence. Garbage and stagnant wastewater fill the streets and preventable diseases run rampant.
With all of this stacked against them, these children have poor chances of living a full life. Add to that being born with a critical medical condition and the odds shift further out of their favor. But Catalina’s Juanfe Foundation is trying to tip the scales back — and keep them there — for children like Tiago.
Tiago’s mother Daniela was just 17 years old when Tiago was born with a complex congenital condition. She visited several hospitals in an effort to find affordable treatment for her son but, again and again, she was told to “come back later.” Even when she was able to get an appointment at a health care facility, the attention given to Tiago’s case was minimal.
As time progressed and no one was willing to help treat Tiago, Daniela grew more fearful for his life. She felt helpless in the face of Tiago’s illness and a system unwilling to help. Her self-esteem sank lower and lower.
Finally, she found Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation. Juanfe provided Tiago with the medical care he needed at the Juan Felipe Medical Center and his condition began to improve. Juanfe partnered with Cardioinfantil Foundation to provide Tiago with a much-needed surgery – at no cost to Daniela. Now Tiago is prepared to have a healthy childhood.
But Tiago and Daniela’s journey with Juanfe doesn’t stop there. Adolescent mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds often don’t have the skills or training to secure a job and provide for their families. Daniela had little hope that she could find a job that would allow her to support herself and Tiago.
Through Juanfe’s Teenage Mothers Extension Program, Daniela found a passion – gastronomy. Now she is learning the technical skills she’ll need to pursue a cooking career. Once she completes her studies, Juanfe will help her find a stable job in her chosen field.
Daniela now has hope for her future and hope of a better life for her son. She describes herself as an empowered woman, ready to provide a happy, healthy life for her beloved son.
Catalina Escobar is the recipient of the 2015 World of Children Humanitarian Award. To learn more about Catalina and Juanfe visit: worldofchildren.org/catalina