Today is a very exciting day--our group got to learn our sites for the next two years! I will be in between the cities of David and Santiago on the Pacific side of western Panama. It seems like a great fit. I will be following up a previous Master´s International volunteer who did a great job of setting the stage for a future volunteer. Word on the street is that they already have a house built for me!
Here´s a bit more information on my site given to me by the Peace Corps:
Tucked into the rugged foothills, you will discover the multi-faceted culture of the indiginous group Ngabe. You will find traditionally-styled homes of penca (dried palm leaves) and bamboo, steep ridges covered in corn and yucca, green and blue loros (birds) flying in the trees, women wearing the iconic clothing of their predecessors, travelers hauling goods in multicolored chakras, and friendly neighbors ready to share a totuma de cafe with you. You will be welcomed everywhere in the valley. It is a community of 300 people concentrated near the banks of the river. The central playing field, school, and church form the hub of the valley.
The community has carved their life out of the surrounding hills and valleys. The community relies principally on traditional agriculture for subsistence. Modernization has accelerated changes in this region since a main road was paved. The nearest town is about 45 minutes away and has a post office, supermarkets, and beach access. Improved access to town has allowed the neighbors to pasear (talk with other families) with ease, connected more students to resources, expanded businesses, and brought in more tasty goods for the small, local stores to sell. They are excited to work with Peace Corps Volunteers and invite you to join the community.
Here are my primary tasks:
1) Build trust, friendship, and work partnerships by listening, observing, and participating in meetings, work days, trainings, or any behind-the-scenes planning going on in the community.
2) Facilitate a participatory community analysis with your work partners or counterparts.
3) Facilitate strategic and action planning with individuals, groups, or organizations while utilizing participatory tools.
4) Design and carry out planned Environmental Health activities with partners.
This will include operation and maintenance of one acueduct system, an improvement of a second acueduct system, and possible design and implementation of a third acueduct system. Other projects could include building latrines and conducting Environmental Health charlas (interactive presentations).
5) Evaluate the success of activities based on previously set objectives and measures, as well as lessons learned for the future.
6) Report out to stakeholders and celebrate progress!
7) Follow up with partners through individual training, mentoring, and troubleshooting.
I eagerly await my time with my future community. It seems to be such a great fit--great people to work with, great projects to work on, close to the pan-american highway, close to the beach, and close to the mountains for some great hiking.
If you are at all interested in visiting my site or Panama in general, I would love to help you in whatever way I can. I would love to show you around my site and give you an idea of the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer and the lives of people in my community. I can start having visitors in February, so let me know!
On Sunday we will head to our culture week near the city of Santiago, but up in the mountains a bit. We will learn about the food they cook, the indiginous language they speak (in addition to Spanish), as well as how they make a living.
That´s all from Panama!
Dios te bendiga,