Interview with Claudia Ritzel, President Fundown Caribe, Colombia
Claudia Ritzel was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia. She is an Industrial Engineer and has worked mainly in the administrative, financial and commercial areas, of one business unit of a 4th generation family business in Santa Marta, Colombia. Today, she is the co-founder and president of the foundation Fundown Caribe. After the birth of her 3rd child, who was born with Down syndrome, Claudia and her husband decided to start a foundation to help other families with a family member with the same diagnosis.
What’s your involvement in your family business?
I got married to a second-generation family business owner of the Daabon Group. At this moment, the second generation is leading the company, and some members of the third generation are starting to have some interest in getting involve in the business. The Daabon Group is a family company that started operations in 1914, with productive activities in rice, cotton, and intensive cattle ranching. In the 70s, Daabon decided to enter the markets of bananas and palm oil due to the growing and unattended demand. In the early 90s, the company took up the challenge of entering the organic market and started the transition process in all its production units. Today, the Daabon Group has achieved goals beyond organic products, focusing on the sustainability of their operations, and diversifying into products such as biofuels and renewable energies. In addition, the Daabon Group is a big supporter of the foundation Fundown Caribe, which in the past years has helped the foundation reach its goals and reach more children.
Your foundation addresses an important cause. Can you tell us more about it?
We are a non-profit organization, created in March 2007 by a group of parents of children with Down syndrome, that promotes the inclusion of people with Down syndrome and cognitive disabilities in all areas of society. Through campaigns, we promote awareness about the rights of people with disabilities and provide training for their families, teachers, students, and professionals. What differentiates us from other organizations is that we focus on people and not on the disability itself.
What role did the family business play in the development of the foundation?
The idea came from my husband and I we got together with other families that had this vision in common and founded the foundation. Since the beginning of Fundown Caribe, the family business and its members have been our biggest contributors and permanent donors. The good thing about having a situation like this inside a family is that we united each other with one cause. We have a voice, and with the support of all the family members, we not only helped my daughter, but we helped many other kids with Down Syndrom. Many of the good causes that the family business supports are also foundations established by family business members or owners; and a good cause is always a vehicle to promote union between the family members.
What is your advice to other family members who want to engage in philanthropic activities?
The real essence of starting a foundation has to come from a thorough will to help a cause. It has to be something that you and the supporters believe in. As well as the philanthropic mission, you have to create a sustainable business model to ensure the continuity of the foundation. These causes generate much sense of belonging and cohesion among family members, especially the younger generations who might be able to identify with such a cause even more than with the business itself.