HONOREE Catalina Escobar


Juanfe Foundation
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

In 2000, two tragic events changed Catalina Escobar’s life – the death of her 16-month-old son, who fell from an eighth story window and died, and the death of another child, a 12-day-old baby who passed away in her arms while she was volunteering at a neonatal clinic. The second child died because the baby’s mother, a teenager herself, had not been able to afford the $30 medical treatment her child needed. Reeling with grief and determined that no mother should lose a child for want of money for medical care, Catalina quit her job in the private sector and dedicated her life to launching and planning a social initiative, which became the Juanfe Foundation, in memory of her son.

The Foundation invests resources to create solutions to the problems of poverty in the poorest communities in Cartagena, Colombia, based on two objectives: (1) Reducing child mortality through a Sponsorship Program and the Juan Felipe Medical Center, and (2) Training teenage mothers through the Teenage Mothers Extension Program.

Many of the teenage mothers whom Catalina helps are victims of abuse and rape, and are still children themselves. All too often, they are ostracized by their families and leave school in an effort to seek income to support themselves. Juanfe provides these teen mothers with what they need most: empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, psychosocial intervention and healthcare. The programs ensure that teen mothers are armed with the tools they need to succeed.

The Foundation executes its programs through its headquarters, called the Social Center. The Social Center is the first LEED social project in Colombia, certified by the USGBC, that focuses on social development, civic education, bio-climatic standards and respect for the ecosystem. The beneficiaries of the Foundation’s programs are children under five years of age, teenage mothers and their children, and the marginalized communities of the city.

The impact of the Foundation’s programs have been astounding:

  • 80% reduction of child mortality rate in the city as a direct result of the Foundation’s efforts
  • More than 2,800 teenage mothers have benefited from the program since inception in 2002
    • 70% have returned to the education system
    • 90%  are in good health and have good nutrition
  • Since 2005, the Medical Center has provided 158,000 medical interventions
  • The Nourishment Recovery Program has provided 7,414 interventions
  • 1,800 children have been treated for malnutrition
  • 1,000 vaccines are given per year
  • Cleft lip surgery patients have received post-surgery follow-up, medicines and periodic examinations

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