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The participants have made it into community! The second part of the Discover AMIGOS program has officially begun. Participants have been split into three groups of 8-10 participants each and have been placed into three different small, rural communities near Penonomé.

For the next 7 days, participants will be living with host families and spending their days at the local community elementary school, working on a service project that the teachers, parents, and community members have decided upon as well as leading classes, games, and activities for kids in the community.

The three communities for Block A are Bella Vista, Sonadora, and Aguas Blancas. Each of these communities brings something slightly different while each sharing common characteristics such as their small size, close-knit community, and incredible natural beauty. Bella Vista stands out for its red dirt roads that wind through it, passing through neighborhoods of brightly painted houses in all hues of colors imaginable. Sonadora participants wake up with views of the surrounding mountains and start their day off with the adventure of taking the public bus with their host families in order to make it to school in the morning. Aguas Blancas is the largest community in Block A and the participants can enjoy the incredible, huge garden with many types of flowers and plants that the school cultivates on its property.

The participants in each community are as follows:

Sonadora: Morgan, Joshua, Ian, Courtney, Emily, Teresa, Jonah G., Helena, and Project Supervisor Emma Fredricks and Mentor Courtney LaKroix.

Aguas Blancas: Karly, Hrittik, George, Jasmine, Belén, Sam, Naia, Miles, and Senior Project Supervisor Guille Caballero.

Bella Vista: Javier, Rashi, Nathaniel, Sadie, Ella, Sofia, Jonah Z., Annabelle, Max, Erik, and Project Supervisor Nuria Arbelo.

On Tuesday, participants arrived to community in the early afternoon. They were greeted by their host families, members of the school, local youth volunteers, and kids from the community.

The Sonadora participants pose with Sonadora maestra, María Luisa, and children from the school.
Sonadora participants pose for a picture with some of their host moms and host siblings!
The Bella Vista participants get together for a group photo together with local youth volunteer, Anyel, who is from Bella Vista and whose mother is the principal of the elementary school.
The participants at Aguas Blancas round up kids at the school in order to lead a dinámica, or icebreaker activity. All of the kids at the school are dressed in red to represent Panama making it to the World Cup this year – the first time in history that Panama has ever made it!

 

Aguas Blancas participants introduce themselves and the game they are about to play.
Aguas Blancas participants demonstrate some of their leadership skills in the classroom.

A typical day during community visits consists of the participants waking up and eating breakfast with their host families. The participants then travel together with a member of their host family, oftentimes a parent or grandparent who has to bring their child/grandchild to the school. Some participants walk to the school while others hop on the bus in order to get to school on time.

Once at the school, participants start jumping into the service project. Each school, together with parents of students and community members, has identified and planned a project they would like to do for their school. AMIGOS provides funds for each community to realize this project and Discover AMIGOS participants come to support in the ways they can. We’ll have more details for you all regarding the projects the participants are helping support in later notes from the field!

After spending a few hours working on the project, the participants have lunch at the school and then begin leading  extracurricular activities. They consist of a 2-hour block of time filled with games, talks, and activities that participants lead with kids from the school. They are planned by each community’s supervisor and participants also have time to come up with additional ideas for activities they would like to lead.

Sonadora participants eat a homemade lunch at the school – lots of rice and lentils/beans for everyone!
Courtney and Jonah G. from Sonadora play with the kids from the school!

In addition to these consistent daily activities, participants also have the opportunity to participate in many community-specific activities. In Bella Vista, participants spent their first day participating in caballito de palo (stick pony) races alongside students, and even teachers, at the school.

Annabelle races one of Sonadora’s maestras while students cheer from the sidelines.
Max and Jonah Z. eagerly await their turn to ride their horses.
The whole Bella Vista group shows off their fancy caballitos de palo.

Aguas Blancas participants had the opportunity to participate in a community-wide festival celebration that also featured students and parents dressing up in plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots. A community member brought a real horse (although the participants could only look and not touch!) and the whole school walked in a parade to show off their own homemade caballitos. Participants got to see who was crowned as having made the best caballito de palo as well as the ugliest. Surprisingly, even the little girl whose caballito was voted as ugliest was just as happy as the student whose horse won for being the best looking!

Bella Vista participants were also fortunate to get to participate in a Father’s Day event organized by the school. The participants recited a special poem in Spanish for the entire audience.

Javier led the way by starting off the recitation for the rest of the Bella Vista participants.

While the participants are staying quite busy, even in the shortest moment of downtime the participants jump at the opportunity to get to know the kids and families in the community. Sonadora participants spent an afternoon at a host family’s house discussing Panamanian history and culture and even got to experience traditional drumming and dancing. Aguas Blancas participants all got together to watch Panama play in the World Cup, which was fun even though Panama sadly ended up losing. Bella Vista participants have been spending a lot of time at the community soccer field playing alongside local kids. Even if it means playing banana tag for 10 minutes with kids at the school in between activities, the participants have been making the most of their experience in community.

Participants taught the kids at Sonadora how to play a new kind of tag that they all loved.

Participants in all of the communities are experiencing a whole new side of Panama by living with host families and working alongside teachers and students at the local school. Hopefully these days in community don’t fly by as fast as they did in Isla Cañas!