The word Pajonal refers to the type of leaf people used to come to this area to find to use when building their houses. Here in the rolling hills of Cocle, it isn’t hard to believe leaves were once what was used to make a roof of a home. Green is all you see wherever you look.
According to my host mom, the paved road only arrived to our home for the next week ten years ago. It was up and down this road that we marched on Sunday morning during our parade for Día de La Juventud. The teachers arrived around 9 AM and the kids began to bring out the banners they had made that week to carry during the parade. A group of about seven boys went to get their drums, which they strapped around their waist, taking their place at the back of the parade. The beat of their drums soon began to echo off the surrounding hills and the parade began.
The people of Pajonal, like all of the people I’ve ever met in Panama, are warm and welcoming. In Pajonal, most of the houses are clustered in the middle of the community around the school, church and casa comunal (like a community center in the U.S.). Across from the school is the cancha, or soccer field, which is where we later held our soccer game. Our Dia de La Juventud celebration ended with short speeches and refreshments.
One of my favorite moments of the day was when a representative of our partner agency, MINSA (the Ministry of Health) came. To Nati, the importance of this day was reflected in what ties MINSA to AMIGOS: a shared belief in the fact that young people are often the ones who have the most power to teach other young people in a way that truly creates long lasting change. She and I discussed the importance of peer to peer advocacy as we watched the youth of Pajonal run up and down the soccer field with the four AMIGOS participants.
It may seem like a small thing, but both Nati and I agreed that taking the time to celebrate youth and the power of young people sets the ground work for the success of both our organizations’ missions and the work we are doing to create a better future for us all.
I am glad the road led me here to share in this today.