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After Isla Cañas, we drove directly to CEDESAM, the Centro de Desarrollo Sostenible Ambiental. CEDESAM is a huge environmental center that is also home to a massive plant and tree nursery. The organization works to promote environmental sustainability and a lot of their work revolves around reforestation, providing training for rural communities on how to create their own nurseries, and providing environmental education opportunities, such as those for our group.

We settled in to CEDESAM in the late afternoon, setting up mosquito nets and leaving our wet clothes from the island to dry in the sun, before heading to a delicious dinner. That night, participants had their first check ins with their supervisors as well as got to make their second call phone to their families. While many of the participants were sad about missing their families, the participants comforted one another and after a little while, all the participants were laughing together again.

The following morning, participants walked to CEDESAM’s vivero, or nursery, in order to listen to one of the CEDESAM employees discuss the different planting techniques as well as explain the type of work that the organization does. Participants were able to see the different planting techniques with their own eyes, and many participants made very acute observations about the plant techniques, such as its environmental impact, that really impressed our partner Profe José Mendoza.

Afterwards, Profe José Mendoza gave an inspiring speech to the participants about how they need to realize that they have the key to the fate of the Earth’s future in their hands. However, before they can change anything or anyone, they first have to start with changing themselves. Profe expressed gratitude to all of the participants for coming here to Panama during their summer vacation and taking this time to dedicate to learning and growing as individuals.

After Profe’s talk, the participants were able to walk around the nursery and garden and ask many questions about the different plants and trees they saw. It was a really interesting morning and as staff, we were more than impressed by all of the insightful observations, thoughtful questions, and genuine engagement the participants demonstrated during their time at CEDESAM.

The following photos show the participants listening to the talks by Profe José Mendoza and the CEDESAM employee as well as touring the nursery and garden:

After leaving CEDESAM, we headed to our partner agency’s office in Penonomé, our staff city in Panama. Our partner agency is MINSA, the Ministry of Health in Panama, and the particular center that we partner with in Discover is the Center of Health Promotion that dedicates much of its work to education and prevention on a variety of health issues. Our amazing partner, Lourdes Pérez, gave a talk about MINSA, the work the organization does, as well as their efforts to prevent tobacco use in Panama. The participants were engaged and asked lots of questions. After lunch, AMIGOS staff had a hot lunch of typical Panamanian food (fried chicken, rice, lentils, and cabbage salad) waiting for the participants.

Once lunch was finished, it was time for the participants to get ready to head into their respective communities. Before loading up their bags and the food despensas for their host families into the buses, each community took a picture with their supervisor!

Here you have El Barrero with Project Supervisor Nuria Arbelo and Block B Mentor Andrea Wolfe:

Next we have Rincón de las Palmas with Project Director Jessica Viales Lopez:

And lastly we have La Negrita with Project Supervisor Emma Fredricks:

While the participants were sad to have to say goodbye to their friends in the group, they were excited for the next adventure of staying with host families and living in the rural communities surrounding Penonomé.