Jenifer Colpas saw a great deal of poverty and unjust social structures both while growing up in Barranqulla, Columbia and while working in IT in India after college. But she refused to look away and do nothing. Instead, she and her peers and friends co-founded “Tierra Grata” in 2015 to serve the rural poor in her home country.
Tierra Grata now helps over 10,000 people living in 35 Colombia communities. Their primary focus is providing electricity, clean water, and solar-powered lights to Colombia’s neediest people in the areas that are the hardest to access.
Although Jenifer had witnessed poverty while growing up, she was particularly shocked by what she saw in India where she first worked after college.
It motivated her to refocus her priorities: Leaving her promising IT career in India, she moved back to Columbia and began volunteering with local community groups and charities. Her in-depth exposure to those in need subsequently led to her and others founding Tierra Grata.
Jenifer was honored as a “CNN Hero” in 2021. In an interview with CNN’s Laura Klairmont, Colpas shared about some of the unique goals and methodologies of Tierra Grata. Because of takeovers of communities by FARC and other paramilitary entities, Colombia’s rural people have become the most internal displaced of any population in the world.
Having been in conflict zones for so long, they’ve been underserved by the Columbian government and others. That being the case, Tierra Grata is particularly focused on helping those who are in the most remote areas and who are the most deprived of basic needs.
Jenifer and Tierra Grata are also extremely committed to enabling and empowering local women in the areas they serve, ensuring that such women are placed in leadership positions to assist with the ongoing work.
This is of particular importance to help such women establish and embrace their roles as crucial community problem solvers. They become key “movers and shakers”; first contacts for emergencies of all types, liaisons with families, consultants for community outreach efforts, logisticians, and planners of long-term solutions.
Colpas shared with CNN that she and Tierra Gratis desire more than just short-term relief from the extreme poverty and unfortunate circumstances of those they serve.
Jenifer knows that the tremendous strength and resolve of the Colombian people that so inspired her will enable them to dream big, make their own dreams come true, and work alongside her and Tierra Gratas toward social justice and improved living conditions throughout the country.