Never in my life have I met a woman with such determination. Catalina Escobar, one of CNN’s Heroes of 2012, is a Colombia native who founded the Juan Felipe Escobar Foundation in 2000 after the tragic death of her 16-month-old son, Juan Felipe. As a volunteer in Cartagena’s largest and most ill-equipped hospital, Catalina also witnessed the deaths of several babies born to teenage mothers who could not afford the $30 needed to purchase medicine for their ill newborns. Facing these traumatic experiences head-on, Catalina took her grief and turned it into power by deciding to fight for those with no voice. Beaten, put out, sexually abused and mistreated – she has created a safe haven for thousands of emotionally abandoned teen girls through her foundation and outreach into the city’s most impoverished and dangerous slums.
Through her efforts, Catalina has helped lower the infant mortality rate in the city of Cartagena by 79% as well as redirect the lives of countless girls by giving them an opportunity to meet their life’s fullest potential. She is the embodiment of an “Inspired Citizen” and we sat down recently in Cartagena to learn more about her efforts and her story.