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The Azuero Project 2018 participants arrived to Panama City on June 19th. Tired and jag lagged, little did they know that their project leadership team had been enthusiastically waiting to meet them for ninety-four days! Training, training, and more training shaped each of the nine staff members into people participants could recognize as kind faces in a mysterious new country. After several roll calls, to make sure everyone had arrived, the project kicked-of with a night in Hostel Loco Coco Loco in Panama City. The next day, the the group headed to CEDESAM (Center of Sustainable Environmental Development) in Cocle, Panama for briefing activities.

Every organization has its secret dictionary and briefing is the AMIGOS word for “training review, country-specific instructions, and partner/community placement”. Over nearly three  days of training, participants reviewed a variety of topics with an emphasis on health & safety. Briefing activities reviewed how to purify water, how to contact project staff in different scenarios, and, most importantly, how to stay healthy (body and mind) throughout the summer.

Among the most popular briefing activities were dinamicas (icebreakers), team building challenges, and exercises related to diversity and cultural sensitivity. Laughter, tumbles in the grass, and water breaks made various icebreakers favorites for hyping up the group, while team building activities helped shape each individual into better team players.

The peak in participant reflection and engagement came as a result to the Diversity & Privilege activity facilitated by supervisors on the second day of briefing. Participants started with linked arms in a straight line and were asked to step forward or backwards if a “privilege” statement applied to them. After a couple of statements, each participant reflected individually over having to unlink arms with someone (by stepping forward or backwards) according to various aspects of privilege and diversity. By the end of the exercise, every single arm had been unhooked and, instead of a straight line, participants found themselves scattered around the room. The maturity this group showed throughout the discussion that followed this activity demonstrated that these participants were truly ready for an AMIGOS summer. They all showed a genuine determination to go through this experience.

Participants start their journey on solving puzzles and popping balloons to find out their community, partner(s) and supervisor names.

All sixty three participants were split into twenty four different communities in the Herrera Providence of Panama. The region is also known as the Azuero Peninsula (which our project was named after).

After briefing we hopped on four different buses from MEDUCA (Panamanian Ministry of Education) and after two hours of hillside views and trees galore through Panama, we arrived in the city of Chitre for the Bienvenida (welcome event). As we unpacked, the press made their appearance to ask about where all sixty three participants would stay and what will be doing here for six weeks.

Project staff would like to extend a special thank you to all the parents, chapters, and national office staff that admirably prepared each and every Amigo to be such a crucial part of the Azuero Project this summer.

Participants get familiar with the band’s instruments after dancing through
four back-to-back songs (and asking for more!) at the Bienvenida event.