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Teenage Mothers and Their Children in Cartagena Face Immense Challenges – Catalina Escobar Is Dedicating Her Life to Helping Them

In March 2016, World of Children Founders Harry and Kay Leibowitz and World of Children supporters are visiting three World of Children Honorees to observe their work first-hand and see how your donations have made a difference in the lives of children. World of Children Celebrity Ambassador Stephanie March joined them for the first two legs of their journey.

Third Stop – Colombia, to learn more about Catalina Escobar’s work empowering teenage mothers and providing medical care for their children

9 The Need: Globally, poverty is one of the most important indicators of negative outcomes for children – and one of the most difficult to protect them from. In the worst cases, poverty prevents families from accessing basic medical care and adequate nutrition and young children die from completely preventable conditions. One of the biggest threats to child welfare in Cartagena, Colombia especially among children born to poor teenaged mothers, is infant mortality due to malnutrition or inaccessible medical care.

To compound the issues facing these young mothers and their children, many of the mothers 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. Without an education or vocational training, their choices of work are extremely limited and most remain trapped in the vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The Solution: In 2000 World of Children Honoree Catalina Escobar, a former business entrepreneur, quit her job in the private sector and dedicated her life to planning and launching a social initiative, which became the Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation.

35The 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

(2) Providing teenage mothers with job skills through the Teenage Mothers Extension Program.

The Crib Sponsorship Program targets children between 0 and 24 months of age who have high risk of mortality and provides health and nutritional interventions. Through the program, parents also learn how to take care of their children including practicing healthy habits and preventing common illnesses. The Crib Sponsoring Program is managed through the Medical Center; the cases that require special attention are directed to specialized institutions.

23The Medical Center Juan Felipe IPS is located in Juanfe’s headquarters and offers medical attention to the teenage mothers and their children. It also performs the follow up sessions for Crib Sponsorship Program patients, who receive ongoing care for 5 years after their time in the Crib Sponsorship program. In addition to the services provided to teenage mothers and their children, the Medical Center provides low-cost care to vulnerable members of the surrounding community.

The Teenage Mothers Extension Program at Juanfe provides teen mothers with what they need most: empowerment, education, entrepreneurship training, psychosocial intervention and healthcare. The programs ensure that teen mothers are armed with the tools they need to succeed.

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

-Cartagena has seen an 80% reduction in the city’s child mortality rate
-More than 2,800 teenage mothers have benefited from the program
—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

Tomorrow: Come back to read the stories of some of the children Catalina and Juanfe are helping!

You can Help! – Donate to World of Children to help more children and support the work of heroes like Catalina!


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