Catalina Escobar Restrepo

Juanfe Foundation

Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation works to save the lives of at high-risk babies under two years of age, and to educate teenage mothers by giving them options for their economic and personal empowerment.

Focus: Women, Youth, Health, Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Colombia
Model: Hybrid non-profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 22,400 (2014)
Annual Budget: USD $2.45 million (2014)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 33% (2014)

The Social Problem
At the turn of the century 37.2% of the Colombian population lived below the poverty line and the Gini coefficient was extremely high – 0.57. In the city of Cartagena the numbers were even worse; two thirds of the population lived in poverty, representing the greatest social despair in the country. The city was recording over 50 pre-natal deaths per 1,000 pregnancies - the highest rate in the county. In addition, one in four of these pregnancies involved a teenage girl, with the situation deteriorating in the most deprived areas, where figures would rise up to 70%. The Foundation acknowledged that reducing the rates wasn’t enough, due to the fact that these children were born in extreme poverty and that 30% of women who gave birth were teenagers. Besides signifying a greater risk for young girls, pregnancy becomes a contributing factor in preventing their development and overcoming poverty. These young girls abandon their studies to dedicate themselves to their pregnancy, they must seek income to survive and usually encounter very unfavourable working conditions.

Innovation and Activities
Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life of adolescent mothers and infants living in extreme poverty in the city of Cartagena. The Foundation has two primary objectives: to save the lives of babies at high mortality risk, and to educate teenage mothers by giving them options for economic and personal empowerment. This purpose is fulfilled by providing comprehensive care in terms of health, psychological and emotional support, as well as technical formation to generate a stable income and break the poverty cycle. Since its inception and adopting operational best practices since the year 2002, 3.551 babies have been treated and saved, and the infant mortality rate has decreased by 79% in the city by focusing on the Rafael Calvo Maternity Hospital, which receives half of the deliveries in Cartagena.

The Juan Felipe Medical Center has attended to more than 130.000 patients since October 2005, with an average of 1500 patients per month. Medical costs for patients attending the hospital from low socioeconomic backgrounds are covered by private investors mainly.

Additionally, since the creation of the Employment and Entrepreneurship Office in 2012, 462 teenage mothers have found a job and are currently generating an income. The Foundation`s business model called 360 degrees intervention is innovative because it is approaching the teenage pregnancy problem in a holistic way; not only focusing in one dimension of the problem but in an array of dimensions: health, nutrition, job training, empowerment, psychology. By working all these dimensions together, they are helping the teenage mothers have a higher probability of finding and keeping a steady job, therefore breaking the cycles of poverty.

The Entrepreneur
Catalina Escobar is a Colombian woman, who left the private sector to become a social entrepreneur by the strong conviction to dedicate her life, talents and experience to save and improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people of Cartagena, Colombia. The Colombian President has awarded her with the "National Order of Merit in Silver Cross Grade." In 2012 Catalina was selected as one of the 25 women in the world to be part of the Fortune/State Department Global Women´s Partnership, as well as a Top 10 CNN Heroes. In 2013, Revista Semana awarded her as Top 10 best Colombian Leaders. Moreover, she got the Poder Business Award by Poder Magazine and 21 Leaders of the 21st Century by Women eNews in the U.S.