by Jackie Lange
In Panama there are many different charities and non-profit foundations to get involved in. It has been my experience that many expats get involved in these charities either volunteering their time or their money or both. It’s a way to give back to a country that has given you a place to start a new life. Below is a photo of 200+ expats who paid $15 a head to attended a fund raiser dinner for a charity that helps needy families.
Previously, I have donated money to charities but I never got to see the results of my donations. Like all charities and “non-profit” or religious organizations, I also have my doubts if all the money goes to the intended recipients.
So I decided to get more involved on a local level by sponsoring a school. The Volcancito School has 197 students, mostly indigenous, ranging in age from 5 to 12. Half of the students attend school in the morning and the other half attend in the afternoon. Many of these students come from extremely poor families. So buying school supplies, uniforms, shoes, or backpacks is not easy for the family. I visited with the principal to determine what I could do to help.
Even though the school gets a budget for supplies, sometimes the money for one semester runs out before the semester does. During our first visit, the principal told me they have a copy machine but they had no paper and no budget for paper for several weeks.
So recently I tool 4 boxes of supplies including copy paper, construction paper, colored pencils, Crayola’s and other goodies. When I made my delivery two weeks ago, I also took cookies. See the smiles on the children’s faces when they got their cookies.
English is taught starting in kindergarten. I was surprised to hear many of the students speaking English. One young girl told me she liked my blue eyes and another boy told me he liked my blonde hair… in English. They all said THANK YOU in English when I gave them a cookie.
The school makes sure the children have a meal while they are at the school, but budget constraints don’t always allow for meat to be on the menu. Next week, I’m delivering 30 pounds of rice, 30 pounds of lentils, 30 pounds of chicken and 500 pencils. I plan to deliver meat every week in addition to the other items the principal tells me they need.
The teachers at the school are dedicated to helping these children succeed. With the right tools and supplies it makes their job a little easier.
The children are ready and eager to learn. When recess is over they quickly get back to their desks to start the next lesson. Their young minds are like a sponge. By providing a nutritious meal each day, they can stay healthy and focused too.
According to CIA.gov, the literacy rate in Panama is actually higher than the literacy rate in the United States!
The school is in desperate need of 4 more classrooms. They only have 4 classrooms and 2 bathrooms now. They also use the lunch room as a classroom. The principal has requested the funds from Panama to add on to the school but he is also working on getting permission to build with donated funds. He estimate it will take $12,000 to build 4 new classrooms, 4 new bathrooms, and all the necessary desks and other furniture to complete the rooms.
The school welcome visitors. A good time to go is 10 am when it is recess time. You can visit with the principal to see what you can to to help too!
Many of these children walk a mile or more to get to school and then a mile or more to get home. Some of them cut through my property to get to the main road. By the time they get to my property, they have usually walked an hour so I always have fresh water and glasses waiting for them.
When you move to Panama, looks for ways you can give back too. Adopt a local school or find a charity you can get involved with.