Aug 29, 2013

Visiting a Mission in Canas Verdes

Boquete has a variety of expat-funded charities established in recent years by multiple USA, Canadian and European transplants.  The constant clamoring for money, attention, goods, and volunteerism can turn even the most well-meaning among us a little cynical.  As for me, I was born cynical. 

But, like most of us, I do feel the call to do something  in some way that is life affirming and ego gratifying. I'm having a hard time finding the right cause, though.  Aside from helping neighbors in small ways with loans and other assistance, and doing some English tutoring off and on,  I can't say I've done much.  It's not that I'm unwilling, it's just that I'm jaded and want to find the right opportunity.   

This morning I accompanied a small group of Christians to the community of Canas Verdes, where fourteen Ngobe Bugle families are learning about the Lord while enjoying child care and full stomachs.  Their needs are being met by a warm Panamanian couple who have lived among the Ngobe for the last 12 years.  These people are living in primitive quarters without electricity or running water.   The road to the community is unpaved, even ungraded in spots, and dark and treacherous in others.  Four wheel drive is required to drive in, and even then, one can't drive more than 5 mph.  It's a 25 minute "drive" in a good vehicle. 

On this trip, the objective was to deliver solar lights to the families.  Money for the devices was contributed by school children affiliated with the Pentecostal Church of God, in Bedford, Texas.  Apparently the children sold candy bars and raised $500 which was used to purchase the lighting. The devices are nifty, sturdy, light-weight globes that can be carried as flashlights, or placed upright in stands to function as lamps.  They can also be used to charge cell phones, which is truly a godsend,  given the nearest electrical outlet is an hour's walk down the mountain to the tiny outpost known as Palmira Arriba.

Above, Gene Melton is providing instructions in assembly and use of the lights, aided by interpreter Raquel Sitton.  Below, Ana, the Panamanian wife who gives her time so freely to care for and feed the Ngobe children, is demonstrating the solar panel and how to connect it.  In the foreground is Bob Wilson, whose mission work lead to the donation. 

The overall objective in this union of the Bob & Marcela Wilson ministries with Ana and Rodrigo's dedication to their neighbors, is construction of a small community center where people can come together for feeding, education and worship.  Apparently this center has been the focus of Ana and Rodrigo's prayers for the last 12 years.  It's underway, with the beginning of what seemed an insurmountable funding of about $20,000.  Ground has been broken, and manpower will hopefully be dedicated to erecting the walls in the next two weeks.  Meanwhile, Ana continues to feed and watch the children, whose parents leave them in the dawn-filled  mornings to toil away for a meager day's wages in the coffee fields of surrounding plantations. Rodrigo works closely with the parents, gives weekly bible sermons, and handles numerous physical jobs around their minimal home/meeting place.

For anyone interested in learning more about the project, or possibly even donating money and/or time to help, you can learn more at this link:  I hope to provide intermittent updates, as I suspect I will get more involved in this endeavor. 

Aug 4, 2013

The Boquete Highway: Progress Panacea or Pedestrian Peril?

Set out this afternoon to snap photos of what I thought would be a very positive post on the status of the David-Boquete four lane highway.   The pedestrian overpass by the CEFATI building is almost finished, and there are pretty little blue-roofed bus stops sprouting up all along the route.  There's even a small island  near the entrance that has been filled with green grass and bright flowers to perk up the parkway.  
My mistake was setting out on foot to take the photos.  But it it was only a short walk and I didn't want the encumbrance of parking a car. The experience was quite enlightening.  It's astounding what's absent from the overall plan... 
With a huge car-less segment of local population, you'd expect a highway project of this magnitude to include the means for pedestrian access across the thoroughfare to public transportation  points along the route. With only a short while until the politicos stage some kind of official highway inauguration,  there has been abysmally little accomplished on behalf of pedestrians.  

One crosswalk is painted on the roadway some distance ahead of the bus stop shown below.  But it ends at the decorative center island, just ahead of a sign telling people NOT to walk on the grass.  The nearest roadway intersection is about 20 feet away, and there are no crosswalk markings where people are actually able to cross the road. Words can't begin to express the conundrum the pedestrian encounters trying to get from point A to B now that the 4-lane road is in place.  Perhaps these photos will help illustrate it.  You're literally taking your life in your hands trying to cross the road.

Crosswalk to center island where stepping on grass is prohibited, leading to nowhere. 


Hopefully the grave oversights will be addressed before serious pedestrian injuries or even deaths result.  As for me, I'll just keep driving....