To say Aristizábal suffers from cerebral palsy would be false. While no stranger to discrimination because of his condition, he has chosen to embrace his obstacles for a greater good in a country that believes children’s disabilities are a form of God’s punishment.
“I learned that I would be able to accomplish everything I put my mind to,” he said in a video profile for CNN.
As the founder of ASODISVALLE (Association of Disabled People of the Valley), Aristizábal has passed his confidence on to thousands of disabled youth since 2001. The rehabilitation center offers therapy services, medical treatment and schooling with a mission rooted in fostering happiness among children counted out by their communities.
In a brief, yet tear-inducing speech at CNN’s Hero of the Year reception, Aristizábal kept his message of hope alive. “Hello to Colombia. Hello to all the families that have a child with a disability. I want to tell you that yes you can,” he said. “You can dream, and you can achieve your dreams.”
Jeison Aristizábal will receive a well-deserved $100,000 to continue his mission. Watch his speech here: