Last week we were invited by some people who are concerned about the welfare of rural, mostly indigenous children, and who seem to be caught in a school system that is unable or maybe even, unwilling; to support them in even a minimal way.
Shelley and I went on a three school tour, Our first stop was at Escuela De Bahia Roja.
This school is in an under serviced indigenous community, currently this school has approximately 20 pre-school (3-6yrs) children, 35 children in grades 1-6, and 15 young people in grades 7-9 ...
We met Emily Talentino, director of development for the non-profit organization, Give and Surf. This school and the second one we visited today are sponsored by Give and Surf; who, with almost no support from the Panamanian government care as well as they can for these children.
At this time, Give and Surf are building 2 more classrooms and hope to double the size of the school. This is volunteer build through parents and the organization.
Next we traveled to our second school – Esquala Bahia Honda, also sponsored by Give and Surf. In this school there are 18 Pre- school children , 42 children in grades 1-6, and 12 in grades 7-9
There is no electricity available to this school so they need solar panels replaced so that they will one day have lights and be able to run computers. As a few examples of the realities here, last year they had no school for two months as the teacher had a baby and they could not get a replacement. The only reason this school has a bathroom and a small library is that Give and Surf built them.
We also learned that they cannot use one of those classrooms at the moment because it has no chairs or desks for the students.
After about 40 minutes, we left Bahia Honda and travelled by boat to our third school in Solarte. As we were pulling away we passed the exclusive Red Frog Marina who caters to cruising boats and mega yachts. The contrast of these two world was not lost on our group and we learned that in order for the owners of the marina to acquire the land they needed, promises were made to the indigenous people that sadly look like they were not fulfilled...
We arrived to see our third and final school. Coming toward the school we couldn’t help notice the high fence and the barbed wire. This was installed to keep the few possessions of the school from being stolen.
This school is not supported by Give and Surf, but by another organization called One world Children’s Fund or OWCF. Margo Cary who was with us, said that, not unlike the other schools this school has its challenges of it’s own.
At the moment they are fortunate to have 2 teachers who live on site. We met Principal Candy who teaches English, computers and literacy for parents in the community who cannot read and write.
In this school there are 3 pre school children and 45 Children attending grades 1-6. Above grade 6, children from here must be water taxied to Bocas town,
On this day Government Doctors were running a medical clinic at the school and were giving out vaccinations and medicine. The children were getting an environmental lesson from a person connected to the Smithsonian institution... Ironically, the teachers had to scramble to find enough crayons and colour pencils, so the children could colour the picture given to them by the Smithsonian people.
This school has a few solar panels so is set up to accommodate computers. Unfortunately the computers they have runs very old software, so cannot run any of the materials available to them...
They need 10 computers -10 that have a cd drive’s.
They are also looking to the English speaking community in town to volunteer to teach English before and after school. English is required in Panama, but sadly, there is a real shortage of people who can teach it.
Parent volunteers sign up to do lunch duty, costs about $60 a day to feed the kids. If they have enough money the use 10lbs of rice, 3 lbs of beans and 15 lbs of chicken, if they do not have enough money they just make porridge or rice or whatever they can get donated by parents or others,
After visiting the school, we were invited to follow the same trail the children take each day to school.
The dropout rate is very high for this school and this is partly because the children must travel on a dangerous dirty path each day they attend school.
Our friend, and local resident Kay Heath is working diligently to raise the required funds to complete a partially finished path for the children and the rest of the community to use...
All that is needed is $750 and the local land owners have agreed to provide the labor...
It came time for us to return to our boat. But not before Shelley and I committed to helping all three schools acquire enough school supplies for the children of these three schools.
On Wednesday this week, we took the few supplies that we had left on the boat and purchased what we didn't have, and presented the school on Solarte enough supplies that EVERY STUDENT received a pencil case, a set of colour pencils, 2 regular pencils, an eraser, a ruler, and a pencil sharpener.
The supplies were well received and the children sang us a thank you song. It was AMAZING.
Our people in Canada have been busy getting a large shipment down to us. It must first go to Florida, then packed in a container, then to Panama.... It should leave Florida mid August and arrive here late September.
As soon as the supplies arrive, we will be supplying the other two schools we visited and another school in Dolphin Bay that we just found today.
The rest of the supplies will be distributed in the San Blas Islands, in southern Panama later this year.
This is an exciting time for Shelley and I.
Below, is a link to a 15 minute video we made last week:
Blessings and love,
Kyle and Shelley...