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Interview: Olga Lucía Toro

Coordinator of the Itinerant Seminar on Social Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship, Colombia’s Olga Lucia Toro has a degree in philosophy, a masters in Latin American studies and she is a consultant for the Kellogg Foundation for programs in Brazil, Guatemala and Bolivia. Here, she tells us her impressions of the non-profit sector and reveals what Latin American countries are  doing to eliminate poverty.

What, in your opinion, is the current climate of poverty in Latin America today?
Latin America has a very serious poverty problem. It is neither a fortuitous nor a marginal phenomenon, but pandemic. Some countries are in a better position than others. Brazil has undergone a very important democratic transition process over the past 20 years. There is now a more propitious climate for developing public policies and actions from civil society, an organized non-profit sector and private initiative. Having said this, these actions have not yet managed to foster any profound, lasting and sustainable changes. Brazil’s most serious problems, such as poverty and malnutrition, are comparable to most other countries in Latin America.

How are the changes being implemented?
I am convinced that social change springs from the hearts and minds of people. If I didn’t believe it to be possible to change the world I live in, nothing would ever happen. A favorable environment is also necessary for the changes to occur.

How do you implement programs that have an effective social impact?
There are some very successful programs in many places. Two years ago we organized the first Seminar, after which two new organizations emerged. Business leaders in Central America have very close ties. If this seminar can plant a seed, I feel confident that when we assess the results in two or three years time, we’ll discover some very important programs. We are planting seeds.

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