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Catalina Escobar, CNN Hero, Transforms Lives Of Colombian Teen Moms Through Foundation

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For most people, a personal tragedy -- like the death of a son -- doesn't result in an initiative that goes on to save the lives of thousands.

But that's exactly what happened to Catalina Escobar.

As a medical volunteer in Cartagena, Colombia, Escobar had seen one too many preventable deaths. When faced with the death of her baby, 16-month-old Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar, she sold her company and opened a foundation in his name in order to commit herself fulltime to helping underprivileged mothers in Cartagena, CNN reports.

"I want my girls to be empowered," Escobar explains. "Earning money provides them with independence and allows them to gain back control of their lives."

The foundation, which includes a daycare center, cafeteria, and medical center, provides refuge from the slums of Cartagena for around 400 young mothers each year. A whopping 20 percent of Colombian girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are or have been pregnant.

"When a girl gets pregnant, she drops out of school ... Next year, she's going to be pregnant again," Escobar explains to CNN. "She's repeating the same patterns of the mother, the grandmother."

Through education and therapy, Escobar aims to prevent further pregnancies. Additional training in vocational skills -- like jewelry making and sewing -- provides the girls with the tools necessary to obtain a job or return to further their education, a goal that 67 percent of program graduates have achieved.

Yerlis Bautista, one of the 2,000 young mothers supported by Escobar to date, explains that the center has opened her eyes to the possibility of a better life.

"It is better to go forward with my future, to not just sit around like other girls," Bautista explains. "Because I have been a fighter, I have found a better future for my child … I will keep fighting so he can have everything."

Click here to learn more about the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation.

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