Friends of Colombia for Social Aid (FOCSA) was founded in 1976 by the wife of the then Colombian Ambassador, Doña Lucía Holguín de Vázquez Carrizosa, and several British and Colombian people interested in helping disadvantaged Colombian children. It became a registered Charity in 1977. Doña Lucía was FOCSA’s first President, followed by Yolanda Connor, Mariela Ingram, Marina Tafur, Amanda Ardila, Martha Strange, Louise Russ, Andres Monsalve, Clemencia Corradine and our current, recently elected President, Laura Laurence. They have all, along with the Trustees, the members of the Executive Committee and the volunteers, contributed their time, expertise and dedication to develop the charity. In 1998 Baroness Gloria Hooper kindly accepted to become the Patron of Friends of Colombia for Social Aid. Baroness Hooper has supported the Charity since then by promoting FOCSA, attending fund-raising events and advising the President.
FOCSA started as a small charity with volunteers raising funds to send medicines and equipment to health institutions in Colombia. They were also very active in raising funds to send vital equipment to help the victims of natural disasters including the eruption of the ‘Nevado del Ruiz’ in November 1985, which destroyed the town of Armero, and the devastating earthquake in Armenia in January 1999. More recently, FOCSA sent much needed donations for the victims of the floods of 2010/2011.
Since its creation, FOCSA has gone from strength to strength and we are very proud to have donated, in the past 16 years, close to £940,400 in essential medical equipment to 95 hospitals and health institutions across Colombia in 123 separate projects. This success was made possible by the introduction of new and different fund raising activities such as a very popular and profitable Spring Fiesta, obtaining funding from other charitable Foundations for specific projects, sporting events and, most importantly, generous donations from our benefactors. It is worth mentioning that since the members of FOCSA are volunteers, all the funds raised are used to buy medical equipment, apart from around 5% for essential administrative expenses.
The success of FOCSA has not gone unnoticed and in 2004 the work of the Charity was formally recognised by the Colombian Government by awarding ‘La Orden del Congreso de Colombia en el grado de Caballero’ to Amanda Ardila the President at the time. She received this award from the President of the Senate on behalf of the Executive Committee and all FOCSA volunteers.
In 2008, a branch of Friends of Colombia for Social Aid was established in Bogotá to help in identifying projects, supervising the purchase and delivery of the equipment we donate, follow-up visits and other administrative aspects related to the projects. Maria Cristina Silva de Kley is the President of FOCSA Bogotá.