grantees » Jeirlen Puerta Cartagena, 1979

Jeirlen  Puerta Cartagena, Colombia

This grantee is still in the process of their leadership development with the JWH initiative.

Jeirlen’s story is powerful- one of hard work and ambition. Although he grew up in a dangerous neighborhood outside of Medellín, Colombia under constant pressure to join gangs, Jeirlen chose to create a different path towards an improved lifestyle- he wanted to work to earn honest money and make a better life for himself. At the age of 16, while selling ice cream on a bus in Colombia, Jeirlen met the Cock Duque family, the founders of Fundación Amigos del Chocó (AMICHOCÓ).  AMICHOCÓ is an NGO created to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and the improvement of the quality of life of the population of the Chocó Bioregion through the implementation of productive projects, through environmental education and communication, and through capacity building. Impressed by the young man’s initiative at such a young age, the Cock Duque family hired him as a part time messenger and helped him to finish high school. When the family decided to create AMICHOCÓ in 1997, they involved Jeirlen as a part time employee, and later helped him to start learning about office tasks: preparing payments, handling documents and mail, and learning how to use a computer for management of an organization. After 7 years of growth and learning, he took on more responsibilities with the organization, like leading capacity development workshops with local partners. Perhaps the most valuable contribution Jeirlen makes through his work at AMICHOCÓ is the ability to communicate with partner grassroots organizations in a simple, gentle and unpretentious manner, one of his many admirable attributes that exemplify his potential for great leadership.

Upon receiving the JWH Initiative grant, Jeirlen completed a basic skills course at the ESUMER University Institue in Medellín, Colombia. The course included instruction on math, accounting, management, statistics, research methodologies, and communication skills. Jeirlen says that apart from the valuable technical skills he gained, one of the most significant takeaways from his lessons was the development of his autonomy in the planning and transfer of managerial abilities within an organization.

In continuing his work with the JWH Initiative grant, Jeirlen plans to complete four English courses, so as to better be able to communicate with AMICHOCÓ’s  non-Spanish speaking partners. Furthermore, he will continue to take tutoring sessions in basic technical skills, with the intent of applying to a Systems Engineering program at the Metropolitan Technological Institute (ITM).

Jeirlen is highly motivated to learn, he is dedicated and committed to AMICHOCÓ and its work, he is very intelligent and tenacious and, most importantly, he wishes to better his own life and the lives of others.  Jeirlen is an excellent role model, exhibiting the ideal that hard work can indeed lead to big changes.