In celebration of Colombian Independence Day on 20th July, we have highlighted the incredible contributions of migrants to their adopted countries and their communities back home. From entrepreneurs to social activists, each person is creating different opportunities for their communities - they are committed to making a difference. Read our stories from nine Colombians living in five different countries.
We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know more about them.
Angela Sierra - A cultural leader promoting Latino art in Canada
Angela Sierra is an audiovisual producer and a cultural leader. Based in Quebec, Canada, she has worked for Canal Vox and Canal Evasión. She’s been involved with various film festivals - one of her most notable achievements includes projects for the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2009, Angela recognised the lack of opportunities for Latino artists to showcase their art. Her LatinArte Foundation has become the first platform for the Latin American artistic community and their creative practices. Each year, the foundation organises a cultural festival and a fundraiser supporting local communities, where visitors can enjoy diverse types of entertainment, from music to visual art.
She also mobilised the Latin American community to create the Casa de las Américas, with a local commercial, cultural and community offering.
Thanks to her efforts to give back to the community, Angela has been recognised by various organisations and media outlets. In 2017, she was awarded the Alamo Award by the Asociación Latino-Américaine de Montréal as one of the most outstanding Latina women of the year. Two years later, she was elected Vice President of the Montreal Intercultural Council.
Alexandra Aristizabal - A cancer survivor celebrating Colombian pride in the US
Alexandra is a mom, wife and the director of the Colombian Pride Independence Festival - one of the largest Latino events in the tri-state area. In 2013, only three months into the second run of the festival, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy. Despite these challenges, she was determined to keep the festival going and carried out her duties to host the event that year.
She’s an impressive entrepreneur, too. Her 20-year track record and experience in event management empowered her to create J&A Global Corporation, a company in charge of logistics, marketing and advertising.
Sandra Riano - A psychologist bringing Hispanic female entrepreneurs together in Canada
Sandra is a sought-after psychologist and therapist. Throughout her career, she’s been dedicated to supporting newcomers, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. She also helped to organise the two biggest fundraising events for Colombia - the Teleton and Todos por Mocoa.
In 2013, she established the Hispanic Women's Network (HWN). The Network hosts events to empower and motivate women in the community, helping them to grow their businesses and expand their social and professional circle. Over the past seven years, more than 2,000 women have benefited from HWN programs!
Sandra has also been a guest speaker on numerous radio and TV shows aimed at supporting entrepreneurs. Following her community efforts, she was recognised as one of the Empowering Women of 2017 by the Canadian Hispanic Congress.
Father Javier Arias - A priest shining a light on migrant communities in the US
Born in Bucaramanga, Father Arias was consecrated as a priest for the Diocese of Villavicencio in 1995. Since then, he served as a Chaplain in the Acacias Agricultural Prison and founded two parishes.
In 2013, he moved to the parish of St Alban's in Beamsville, Ontario, where he developed a pilot programme focused on helping migrant workers. The initiative was covered by Univision USA and multiplied in different regions of Canada, reaching approximately 90,000 migrants each season! His efforts led to greater recognition of contributions made by migrant workers to the local community and Canadian society.
Father Arias is currently at St Bede's Parish in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he continues to advocate for migrant communities.
Vladimir Olarte - An entrepreneur developing partnerships between Latin American countries
Vladimir is passionate about organisational problem solving, as well as youth leadership development, social entrepreneurship, and public service.
A co-founder and former president of Columbia University's Impact Investing Initiative, Vladimir is also one of the names behind Impact HUB Bogota. Impact Hub is a social entrepreneurship and innovation organisation supporting entrepreneurs and organisations across Latin American countries, giving them a platform to strengthen partnerships and transfer knowledge.
Luis Villegas - A global storyteller, sharing stories that matter
Luis is a storyteller with a passion for social projects. For more than ten years, he has worked at Pavoreal Films, sharing stories that matter while highlighting the values of different cultures.
His passion for discovering the world and its cultures has led to him living in cities such as Medellín, Miami, London, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Bratislava; where he's been consolidating his joy in telling stories.
Check out his portfolio, full of interesting stories from all around the world.
Juliana Zerda - An entrepreneur supporting fellow entrepreneurs
Juliana is a senior advisor on innovation and andragogy at the École des entrepreneurs du Québec and the owner of Viceversa Commerce. Juliana has actively participated in many different associations and organisations, including the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Quebec.
Her vision of international entrepreneurship has allowed her to develop several impact projects, contributing to the economic growth of more than 20 countries through local capacity building and supporting entrepreneurs in the sustainable growth of their projects.
She has won several awards including Volunteer of the Year at the Latin American Chamber of Commerce and the Latin American Pride for Women Entrepreneurs at the Association de la Fierté Latinoamericaine.
Veronica Orozco - A social media powerhouse dedicated to helping others
Veronica is an activist, writer, podcaster and blogger who lives in Miami, USA. A law graduate, Veronica decided to instead pursue her two biggest passions - writing and social media.
As a passion project, she shared snippets on Twitter about what it means to her to be a woman. Social media has allowed her to pass her message onto other like-minded individuals. She's now accumulated more than 120k followers.
Veronica has a proven record of turning lemons into lemonade. Following her divorce, which she described as "one of the toughest moments of her life", she founded her blog LA DIVORCÉE. Her stories about self-love and her journey back to regaining self-confidence resonate with the lives of many, giving strength to people going through similar challenges.
Thanks to her storytelling, she's met many influential people, including Juanes, a popular Latin artist, which has helped her to further her career. She's now working as a Creative Director at Indio Films, a production agency, writes for different publications and is the creator of two podcasts - "Vida Real" and "La Ola".
Angela Maria Tafur - A philanthropist raising millions of dollars to help communities
Angela is the Co-Founder and President of Give to Colombia. This US-based charity has channelled since 2004 US$25 million to Colombia in the areas of education, health, economic development and the environment.
Before engaging in the philanthropic sector, she gained significant experience in the legal and financial sectors.
In 2012 she was named as one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos of Miami and in 2014 one of The Most Influential 100 Colombians by Fusionarte. Her company NaiTafur Corp offers specialised consultancy services in the efficient management of non-profit organisations and for-profit startups with a social impact.
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