Goldman Sachs Engineer Uses Machine Learning Prize to Fund Charity in Cartagena, Colombia

09 SEP 2020

Jorge Perea, a vice president on the Transaction Banking Payments Engineering team in London, is influencing change in his home town of Cartagena, Colombia.

Investment Management Division Technology hosted an engineering challenge, with the prize money earmarked to support charities. The challenge called for the use of machine learning and natural language processing to underpin investment decisions. Jorge won the first place award of $10,000, and decided to use the prize money to help start a charity in Cartagena. Fundacion Betania Juvenil was founded to build dining rooms and provide meals for children who live in low-income neighborhoods and often lack access to consistent and nutritious food supply. Within its first year of operation, the charity provided over 8,000 meals to children in Cartagena.

Jorge realized the effect on families when the parent of one of the children being supported said, “If it wasn’t for you, my child would be going to school hungry today.” The impact of Fundacion Betania Juvenil is highlighted in many similar testimonials from parents of enrolled children.

In addition to providing food security to those that needed it the most, Fundacion Betania Juvenil expanded its remit to provide additional services to the children and their families. This included the development of multiple areas of intervention to help address risk of drug abuse, improve hygiene, reduce domestic violence and empower families to seek financial development and independence. The foundation also helped to create and fund programs such as art and music workshops, recreational activities and regular hygiene check-ups. The women in the community also benefitted through educational seminars on responsible parenthood, management of stress (to prevent violence towards children) and creation of small businesses. As a result, two mothers from the community have started their own small businesses after receiving training from the program. Since its creation, Fundacion Betania Juvenil has contributed to a 20% reduction in domestic violence in the local community. “I must admit, the program has exceeded all my expectations!” Jorge noted.

The charity has been supporting the children and their families with food stamps through the COVID-19 lockdown. The organization’s vision for the coming year is to increase its support to 200 children on a daily basis, with an aim to expand its facilities with increased access to technology, more equipment to facilitate learning, a room dedicated to English classes and a library. In the long term, they aspire to support children in all vulnerable neighborhoods of Cartagena.