Thursday, May 5, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
I know, I know....I have been a huge disappointment to my loyal blog readers! Not writing an update since September is inexcusable. But I am back on track and realize that just because I no longer live in my community, lots of great things are still going on here in Panama. So, whats been going on in the four months since I last updated? Lets recap.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Here in Panama there are several options if you want to extend your service. You can stay on in your community for a few extra months or up to a year if you are finishing up a big project or working on something specific. For example, my friend Kaitlyn is staying for an extra five months to finish a project to bring rainwater collection tanks to her community. Another option is to take a coordinator positon for a certain project, but not necessarily working in the same community. For example, my friend Jesse (and closest volunteer) is moving to David (a large city) where he will be coordinating composting latrine projects that are happening around the country. His home will be in a city and he will travel to help people with construction and implementation. Peace Corp is going through lots of growth so there has been lots of opportunity to create your own job.
I have decided to go for option number three which was to apply for a postition as a Regional Leader or RL. Peace Corp Panama started the RL program and it is now used as a model for other countries as well. A RL is a third year volunteer who lives in a regional captial and acts as a liason with Peace Corp staff. Ideally, the will have lived for two years in the region as a volunteer, so they know the area well. I applied a few months ago and got the job! As the RL of Bocas Del Toro, I will have three main responsibilities.
First, is site development. This means coordinating with the various programs directors to find communities in my region who want volunteers and have work. I will be responsible to doing intial visits, talking with people, seeing if it seems like a good place to live, gathering information. There is a lot that goes into developing a community to recieve a volunteer but that is the simplified version of it. I am excited about this part of the job because it means getting out, hiking, boating, who knows...maybe even a horse ride, to meet communties. I have dedicated myself to one community for two years, so it will be great to see more of this area.
Second, is volunteer support. This involves a lot of things from personal support, to keeping track of them in an emergency, organizing regional meetings, offering advice, and letting people stay at my house sometimes since it is in the capital.
Third, is agency relations. This means maintaining a working relationship between Peace Corp and different government agencies that partner with us. (for example in the US this would be akin to department of health or EAP etc.). This helps us connect on projects and work opportunities that are happening in our area. I guess you could say I am the Peace Corp representative they would work with.
Needless to say, this was not an easy decision. I miss my family and friends and I know there are things I have missed out on. But, more than that it is a great opportunity for me to get more work experience and I owe it to myself to go after anything that is helping me to define who I am, my goals and helping me create a vision for who I want to be in the next several year. Plus it doesn´t hurt that I will now have a house with electricity and indoor plumbing.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
ational park includes Coiba island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. In July of
2005 the entire park was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site for the rich biodiversity.
It is part of the Galapagos chain of islands and Coiba is the largest island in central america with an area of over 50 square miles. About 80% of the island is untouched forest and is home to rare plant and animal species found only on the island. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific Coast of the America.
If that wasn't enough to make you want to go there, apenal colony was built on the island in 1919. During the years that Panama was under the Dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, the prison on Coiba was a feared place with a reputation for brutal conditions, extreme tortures, executions and political murder. Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed in the prison during this period, but sources claim that the number could be close to three hundred. As such, the island was avoided by locals, and other than the prison, was completely undeveloped. The prison was closed down in 2004, but there are still police officers stationed there to protect the ruins, watch for poachers and to help the environmental authority protect the park.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Being a community economic development (or CED) volunteer here in Panama is a job that has many parts to it. Obviously the bulk of our efforts and work as PCV’s is focused on one community and often one group and one specific business. The range of projects amongst CED volunteers is pretty amazing. Some of us work with fisherman’s cooperatives, chocolate producers, farmers, artisans, tourism groups, and community microfinance. Big or small, Latino or Indigenous, CEDers work to help people improve their businesses, by helping identify areas that can be strengthened and teaching them the skills to do so.
In addition to the work we do in our communities, we often participate in and facilitate seminars which are designed to help us with our work. For example, a seminar that all volunteers attend with their counterparts is Project Management and Leadership or PML for short. (Side note: a counterpart is our main work partner in a community. Often the president of the group or someone motivated to organize a project. My counterpart is Esperanza, the president of my tourism group). PML teaches basic project planning and management skills such as time and money management, organizing a group, running a meeting and problem solving.
Recently, there has also been a push to develop a comprehensive seminar to teach professional business planning. Over the years PCV’s have worked to develop and adapt material to most effectively teach the material to people who often have no formal business training and little or no computer skills. Last year, I was able to participate in the seminar "Rumbo al Exito" or "Path to Success". With the vice president of my tourism group, Sergio, we wrote a professional business plan complete with full qualitative and quantitative analysis of the business. It was a lot of work, especially in Spanish but we both learned a lot. This year, those of us who took the seminar we asked to serve as facilitators. We had over 40 participants...20 volunteers and their counterparts took part in the seminar which took place over two weekends...one in June and the other just finished up on July 9th. The first seminar focused on the qualitative information then in the month between they were required to gather information about all the costs. It was a lot of work, but a great experience. Below are some photos from the two seminars. Enjoy!Pumping up the energy with some games or dynamicas. A favorite is a version of rock, paper, scissors called "hombre, tigre, rifle"