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Goals for a Better Life

With more than 10 years in operation, Patricia has led the growth of Colombianitos from 42 children in 2001 to approximately 4,000 in several Colombian cities. She is the senior news anchor at CNN en Español, where she has covered major news events in Latin America and the rest of the world for over 20 years.

What a great opportunity to showcase the work of so many inspiring individuals that haven't forgotten the communities where they come from and are changing the lives of so many people towards a brighter future.

I'm thrilled to be part of the Champions of Change program. This is a marvelous occasion to share our successes and learn from the experiences and challenges of other Champions in a very effective way: cooperation.

I want to convey my gratitude and appreciation for the chance to share with you a few important lessons learned through a decade of intense and rewarding work to improve the lives of thousands of kids in my beloved country.

We know that by investing in public recreational facilities and free after school programs governments are creating a more equal society.

One of the main differences between the rich and the poor in Latin America is the way they spend their free time.

Through sports, music, dance, computing, cheer leading, reading and training programs we provide little Colombians a healthy and value-rich environment in communities under the poverty line, and at the same time we encourage our kids to stay at school and away from violence, crime, drugs and prostitution.

We also know that the relations with local authorities and community leaders are crucial to bringing development and improvements to the neighborhoods where we are. Once we open a program we lobby to have the streets well lit, traffic signals and traffic lights in place, fast internet connections available, trash services and more policemen patrolling the streets.

We know we must involve the parents (if the child lives with mom and dad). We will have slower results if the message we deliver on the soccer field is not reinforced at home.

We learned that we must reach out to the local business community to let them know how they can collaborate with us and to learn from them how to generate our own resources and become self-sustainable.

We also know we have to work in partnership with other NGOs. By cooperating and taking advantage of the strengths and know-how of each other we are able to benefit more Colombianitos and their families.

And we know we can accomplish our "Goals for a Better Life" if we do it with a passionate, caring, committed group of people working with ethics, values, integrity, transparency, efficiency and professionalism.

After all, we know we have the privilege and the enriching responsibility of shaping and guiding children's minds, hearts and souls to become better human beings in micro systems where opportunities and hope are sometimes limited.

After all, we know we are working with the future of Colombia.

A. Patricia Janiot is President of Fundación Colombianitos