Cada Vida Foundation
The roots of the inspiration for my project can be traced to my Grandmother. Throughout her life she worked with and helped prisoners at the jail located in her village, providing them food, clothes, books and organizing Catholics ceremonies for them. While living in Beijing I followed her footsteps and began helping Colombian prisoners in China, most of whom were incarcerated for trafficking drugs. My main idea from the beginning was to provide prisoners a path to learn during their time in jail (e.g. politics, philosophy, sports, science, etc.) and organized an event called “reading makes you free” as a means to achieve this. Also, a primary objective is to inform, educate, and bring attention to those in Colombia about the consequences of drug trafficking on the civil fabric of Colombian society. Without an open dialogue that pushes people to find solutions, change cannot occur.
As I began spending more time with the communities most susceptible to drug trafficker recruiters and speaking with families with fathers now in prison, the depth and vicious cycle of the problem became clear. With their father’s now in prison in China – most for life– these families lost their provider and the mothers now find themselves as heads of the household, with little to no marketable skills or formal education to find work and several children to feed and take care of. To provide for their children, many of these women are in some ways into uncompromising situations, including prostitution. And worse yet, the children in such families, already on the peripheral of society, are further marginalized as they are forced to “grow-up” much quicker than many of their peers and become providers for the family and/or themselves as well. With little around in terms of a support ecosystem to provide them with the proper tools to succeed, many children find themselves turning to dead-end avenues that their father before them already went down.Faced with such grim reality, I felt compelled to find a solution. Not just a solution, but a sustainable solution that could scale throughout Colombia and the world. Colombia
After tossing around several ideas, I have begun to focus my efforts on opening an incubator in Medellin for women heads of the households in the same or similar situation as the families discussed above. The incubator will aim to provide a full suite of tools they need to be able to support themselves, including training & seminars, mentors, network within the business community/job opportunities, and a co-work space with access to technology/internet. Beyond providing training and access to job opportunities, their will also be a component of the incubator that supports the successful development of the entrepreneurial ideas of program participants through resources, services and funding. This component of the incubator will be similar in structure to proven models from existing incubators and will be structured in a ‘for-profit’ manner to allow for recurring revenue/funding for the program. This ‘for-profit’ arm will work in conjunction with another arm of the incubator, which will be a ‘non-profit’ supporting foundation.
I envision the name for the incubator and foundation to be “Vida Mia”, which means “My Life” in English. I view “My life” as the core of what needs to be protected and nurtured to allow women heads of the households successfully raise and provide for their families. “My Life” is the enabler. Like in the case of an airplane crash, you always need to put your own oxygen mask on first before being able to effectively help others. If a woman is empowered and is provided with the opportunity to learn the right sets of skills, she will be able to accomplish wonderful things, which in turn will be transferred to their child enabling a brighter future full of opportunity instead of struggle and despair. Women are the base foundation of the family and the society. We need to strengthen the base.
I imagine a program the 9 months, time a women need to conceive a baby, and I want something very international with volunteers coming from around the world ( I believe is I don’t know something is like does not exist) but if we open their eyes. Their minds, they will understand that this world is big and we don t have limits to do amazing things to make it a better place.