By Melissa Arteaga Marti |

Rather than compete for shrinking philanthropic dollars, a group of five U.S.-based non-profit organizations that are focused on improving the lives of vulnerable populations in Colombia are sticking together in hopes of improving the prospects of all.

For the third year, the BeLive organization is coming together for a spectacular event in Miami that has served, in the past, to raise more than $1.5 million in cash and donations to assist social welfare programs in Colombia. The event, on November 19, is expected to draw more than 600 people to a star-studded evening.

“What has me proudest of BeLive is the actual event itself, and being able to continue working with the same non-profit organizations,” says Connie Freydell-Montoya, president of Formula Sonrisas, one of the foundations that benefits from the effort.
Formula Sonrisas, or Formula Smiles, is a nonprofit organization founded by Freydell and her husband, Colombian racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, to improve the lives of disadvantaged children through participation in sports. “Obviously this is an area where money is fundamental, and many times you would not wish to share your fundraising. But BeLive has shown us that our initial idea of coming together to raise more funds was actually correct.”

Since its inception in 2007, BeLive has enlisted the support of corporate donors and more than 1,000 individuals, including Colombian and Hispanic celebrities from the entertainment and sports industry. Contributing to a healthy and thriving society in Colombia is fundamental to the organization’s mission.

As part of its tradition of community engagement, BeLive enlists celebrities to support social-impact projects for children, the poor and the disabled. In addition to Formula Sonrisas, foundations involved are Give To Colombia, the Genesis Foundation, United For Colombia and Key for Colombia. “BeLive is an initiative of foundations that work together towards [helping] Colombia in order to raise awareness about the social needs, promote social responsibility amongst the Diaspora, engage people in being active, and attract Colombian and international corporate donors to invest socially,” explains BeLive Director Claudia Giardinella.

For the first time this year, BeLive will recognize individuals who have made a significant impact in the community. Artist Federico Uribe has designed individual works to bestow on honorees Shakira, Maria Eugenia Garces, Fanny Iguaran Inciarte and Daddy Yankee.

This year’s soiree also will include a unique fundraising auction of hand-woven bags made by women of the Wayuu, an indigenous tribe in the La Guajira peninsula region between Venezuela and Colombia. “Over 30 world-renown fashion designers were invited to imprint their artistic views on the traditional Wayuu ‘susu’ mochila,” explains Katalina Bernal, executive director of Key for Colombia. The results, which will be auctioned, include bags that were embellished by designers Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and Sivia Tcherassi. They represent a fusion of old world and new, Bernal says, having been based on bags made “by a group of artisan women following the ancestral weaving art, passed on generation by generation. The final product is a unique mixture of the two visions in a one-of a- kind work of art.”

In years past, auctions have included a helmet from Juan Pablo Montoya and even a Juanes guitar. BeLive has also included performances by Carlos Vives, Juanes, Fonseca and Fanny Lu, as well as fashion shows by Ungaro and Sylvia Tcherassi. “This being an official event of the NASCAR Championship weekend, we will for sure see Juan Pablo Montoya as a host of the event and other drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon,” Freydell-Montoya says. “One of the nice things about BeLive is the diversity of guests.”