Kansas City, MO (January 6, 2015)
Children International has named Miriam Castilla Lara from Barranquilla, Colombia, the winner of the 2014 Inspire Award™. The unique Children International Inspire Award™ celebrates outstanding contributions of volunteers who live in and are a part of the impoverished communities Children International serves. More than 8,000 dedicated volunteers help make Children International's work possible, using their time and energy to enhance the lives of children in their communities. Castilla Lara has been a volunteer with Children International since 2005 and has had a significant positive impact on her community.
Those who are familiar with her volunteer work claim it is Castilla Lara's collaboration with the community that has made her so effective. She was nominated by her neighbors to serve as the "Secretaria de la Comuna" for her neighborhood. In this leadership role, she convinced the city's mayor to include her neighborhood in the program "Barrios a la Obra," an initiative to pave the streets in parts of Barranquilla by providing construction materials to communities. Despite receiving the materials, the impoverished neighborhood lacked the funds required to hire skilled labor to complete the project. Castilla Lara stepped up again and organized various fundraising plans, including selling food and managing raffles, to collect money for the necessary labor.
Castilla Lara said, "We really fought for this program because we wanted to have our streets paved. Before, it was hard to access our neighborhood when it rained due to the mud, and children were not able to play outdoors." Castilla Lara worked persistently with leaders in the community to bring the program to her neighborhood. Alongside other members in her community, she knocked on doors, wrote letters and collected signatures in addition to talking with the city's mayor. "It was a team effort," Castilla Lara said.
Hermelinda Guarín, Children International's Agency Director in Barranquilla, said, "Thanks to this project, the neighborhood has good access to roads, which has significantly improved the quality of life for its inhabitants. Even the values of the houses have gone up! Miriam's efforts demonstrate that communities can progress with the leadership of committed individuals."
In addition to improving her community through her role as "Secretaria de la Comuna," Castilla Lara also volunteers her time teaching life skills to 20 youth in Children International's Sports for Development program. The program teaches participants skills like teamwork, goal setting, responsibility and conflict resolution through sports activities. Castilla Lara says she likes this program in particular because children have a lot of fun and learn from it, too.
When she's not coaching sports, Castilla Lara completes a variety of other volunteer tasks for Children International. She collects letters to sponsors written by the children in the sector of which she is in charge, informs the community of important events, advises families and assists with gift distributions. Her inspiration to volunteer so selflessly comes from her mother, a woman who has been well-respected for helping and motivating people around her to develop projects and activities for the betterment of the community without expecting anything in return. After seeing how Children International's programs have helped those in the community, Castilla Lara is passionate about making sure people around her are making the most of the opportunities offered by the organization.
Susana Eshleman, president of Children International, wished to extend her congratulations to the Inspire Award™ winner. "Miriam is truly inspirational! Her achievements as a volunteer are numerous, and we are so grateful to have her. Volunteers like Miriam, with their dedication and passion for improving the lives of children, help make Children International's work around the world possible. Congratulations on winning this year's Inspire Award, Miriam, and thank you again for your dedicated volunteer service!" Eshleman will be visiting Castilla Lara later this year to present her with the Inspire Award™ and congratulate her in person.
In a recent interview, Castilla Lara said, "I would like you all to know that being a volunteer is something beautiful, something heartfelt. I do it from the heart, because I love children."
Learn more about 2014 Inspire Award™ winner Miriam Castilla Lara:
About Children International
Children International is a top-rated humanitarian organization focused on ending poverty by helping children and youth. We take a holistic approach to our programs and work through local professional staff at each of our 80+ community centers worldwide. Our goal is that each child graduates from our program healthy, educated, employable and empowered to break the cycle of poverty.