Mr. President, it is my honor to present Catalina Escobar ’93, founder and president of the Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation and a champion for the most vulnerable in Cartagena, Colombia.
Ms. Escobar, you were propelled on your life’s mission by the devastating loss of your young son, Juan Felipe. Through the foundation you created in his memory — lovingly shortened to Juanfe — you embarked on a mission to improve the lives of those in the most desperate circumstances, particularly girls and young women struggling to escape a culture of physical and sexual abuse.
Your success in reducing the rate of infant mortality and teen pregnancy in Cartagena, increasing educational opportunities, and working to shatter the cycle of extreme poverty has had immeasurable impact. Today, your Foundation empowers girls and young women through comprehensive health care, psychological therapy, and occupational training to help them enter the workforce. It is little wonder Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof chose to profile you in his book about global change-makers, “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity.” He describes you simply as “a force of nature.”
Your journey sends you into rough streets, where your efforts are not always welcome, and into corporate suites, where you do the necessary work of convincing business and government leaders that one of their best investments is in the girls of Colombia.
In one of your regular blogs, you said:
“Every time I see one of my girls fulfilling her dreams by graduating from our program, having a responsible sex-life, being employed, earning a decent and stable income, breaking those chains of poverty, I feel like the proudest mom ever.”
You are indeed the Mother of Cartagena.
Mr. President, on behalf of the Trustees, faculty, students and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, be conferred on Catalina Escobar.