Since 2017, Sonrisas de León support more than 600 children trough nourishment and psychological accompaniment. Roos Morales, the creator of this foundation hope keep bringing smiles at the poor but fascinan neighborhood Islas de León. 

  • What They Do

    • They cook for 600 children
    • They are starting to bring English classes for all the  kids
    • They involve all the families in a especial process of social transformation
    • They make prevention campaigns against teenage pregnancy 
  • Contact a Local Expert

    Emilio Cabarcas
    This Is 4U Cartagena's roving reporter is committed to making a difference in Cartagena. Reach out if you want to learn more about helping.

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    The race against hunger does not stop. Hundreds of families that depend on the informal economy spend bitter days since March 24, the state of compulsory social isolation was decreed by the Colombian authorities.

    Since then, the vulnerability conditions of at least 300,000 Cartagena residents have become more evident. Insufficient aid, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, restricted access to clean water and hunger lurking around the corner, make these people depend on government intervention and citizen philanthropy that once again has shown the good that we can get to be in times of calamity.

    Roos Morales has transformed it like this. This 35-year-old social communicator and cook from Cartagena has permanently brought food for 600 children from Isla de León, an impoverished settlement that borders the Ciénaga de la Virgen in the south-east of the city.

    The history of life in the service of others in the case of Roos goes back a long time. In his adolescence, when he dreamed of being a priest, he visited vulnerable neighborhoods to help with social work.

    Four years ago during the winter season, the inhabitants of Isla de León were literally up to their necks in water. It was during this period that Roos met what would later be the epicenter of his community work.

    “When I found out about the situation I decided to visit Isla de León. I only had six thousand pesos (1.5 dollars), with all the doubts and adversities I went in the company of a friend. In 20 days I organized a campaign called El Sancocho de la Alegría (The happiness soup). We received donations and made nine pots of Sancocho for all the children in the sector.”

    Two years later the Fundación Sonrisas de León would be born in that place. Providing social, food, psychological and social support to children, adolescents and older adults have become the fight that Roos is leading against all odds.

    Cooking outside with borrowed utensils and makeshift wood stoves were not enough obstacles to stop the will of this unbreakable-looking man. The stories of children living hunger as a disease that kills 8.500 children per day according to UNICEF are the engine of this kind of initiative.

    The Sonrisas de León Foundation began by providing lunches for about 80 children, to date there are 600 children benefited throughout the community. Today unlike 2016, the time of Roos' first visit to this neighborhood, cases of child malnutrition have been reduced by up to 90%.

    Joining everyone's efforts, they were able to build a home in 2018 for a family in need. "The construction of houses is part of our vital purpose, we want to continue building more houses for the inhabitants of the community," says Roos.

    This year, they have also started teaching English to children. The Foundation's desire is for Isla de León to be known as the first fully bilingual territory in all Cartagena.

    Of the stories that most impacted the life of Roos in his first approaches to this community was that of a boy who was found almost dead. When he met him, the kid had an acute skin injury, took him to the clinic and raised his voice in front of the medical authorities who had allowed the disease to progress to that critical state.

    “I remember that my voice was heard and the child could count on special attention. When we left the clinic, thanks to the good heart of a donor, we were able to rebuild the house of the boy and his entire family. Today he is a healthy and happy boy. ”

    The feeding of hundreds of families in Isla de León has been affected due to social isolation as a prevention measure for COVID-19 (SARS - COV 2). With the impossibility of leaving home, these families that depend exclusively on the income generated by informal work (more than 60% of Cartagena work under this modality), have lived weeks between anguish and despair.

    “The first week of quarantine since the foundation, we delivered bags with supplies for parents to cook the children at home. We as a foundation suspended our kitchen on the recommendation of the measures established by the national government, however, the following weeks became more complex and we did not want to stand idly by. ”

    For the children of Isla de León, each plate of food provided by the foundation is an escape from the ghost of malnutrition. That is why Roos has decided to continue bringing lunches to the 600 children who, on many occasions, see in this food ration the only possibility of eating.

    “I have always considered that everyone gives what he has in his heart. Many of us have decided during the quarantine to take to the streets regardless of the risk. Love and the desire to serve is our only motivation. We can all help, there is no excuse or valid justification for not doing so.”

    Those who like Roos wish to join this initiative can donate food, money or their work to continue helping more and more people during this period of crisis.

    In these moments when resources are scarce and forces are reduced, only the unity in favor of others can be the ship that leads us to a good port, and so once and for all, we dock on the shores of hope bay .

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