She’s walked the runways of the world for the largest brands on the planet, starred in TV shows, and in movies that have grossed more than $1billion. But Patricia Velásquez has never forgotten her humble beginnings or the things she learned travelling as a child with her father as he worked for UNESCO. A proud Indigenous woman of the Wayuu people and education advocate, with both her parents having worked as teachers. Patricia has used the platform that her success has provided her to support thousands of children in the areas of education, health and food security. Now she’s ensuring that Wayuu children are protected from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This is Latin America’s Story of Gratitude for Patricia Velásquez
As a child Patricia lived in France, Mexico, and her native Venezuela, learning to speak four languages and being exposed to cultures from all over the world as her father’s work at the UN connected her with other children from around the globe. After studying Engineering at university, she left South America to pursue her dreams in Italy and the USA, first as a highly successful fashion model and then starring on the big screen in Hollywood blockbusters like ‘The Mummy’. But she says her greatest success is not in front of the camera but the humanitarian work she does through her Wayuu Taya Foundation, established in 2002.
As a Wayuu woman herself, the Foundation was created with the objective of improving the quality of life of the Indigenous communities in Latin America while maintaining and respecting their traditions, cultures and beliefs. The Wayuu are an Indigenous American ethnic group of the Guajira Peninsula in the northernmost part of Colombia and northwest Venezuela. The foundation provides access to food, health care, water and livelihoods for the most vulnerable communities in the Indigenous region. This humanitarian work focuses on communities with significant needs and issues such as extreme poverty and alimentary and educational deficiencies that affect the integral development of the children.
Currently, they support more than 3,500 individual children in different schools, but the foundation serves more than 29 schools, 16 communities and eight institutions to whom through the programs of the foundation they receive food, medical care and other support. In addition, they provide funds to help build vital infrastructure that gives the communities access to everything from clean drinking water, medical facilities, refurbishing vital infrastructure and also providing spaces were art, culture, music and sport can all thrive.
Key to the foundation’s success in the region has been a focus that allows the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Wayuu; respecting their traditions, reaffirming their values and encouraging the integral formation of the women as mothers with livelihood opportunities, as well as providing female-specific health services. Then when 2020 arrived a new challenge faced the foundation that had been growing for 18 years, the outbreak of COVID-19. “We made a partnership with a company in Los Angeles called Control Industry and we started producing masks. So if you buy a mask for yourself, then one is given to an Indigenous child,” Patricia says.
The UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador has also stepped up food support, currently feeding 12,000 children in the region. Once again proving that while this year has thrown up many challenges, it has also given the more fortunate a chance to give back even more deeply, and that’s something we can all be grateful for. If you or anyone you know has worked with the foundation or knows a volunteer, please contact us here, as the Share Gratitude community would like to thank those involved. We encourage you to follow us for more Stories of Gratitude and invite you to share your story – or send a simple message of Gratitude to those behind this initiative, please visit sharegratitude.com