There was a recent article naming nine expats in Panama as being the most influential expats in Panama. Through some error I was included in the list. I believe very strongly that there are unsung heroes who have done far more than me to make Panama a better place to live.
With this post I want to sing the praises of two of those people, Richard Lipner an expat from California and Carlos Ortega, a Boquete native. These two men with the assistance of many others have made life for many indigenous Ngoble Bugle better than it was before.
Carlos is a teacher in Hato Chami, a village in the Ngobe Bugle Comarca, Richard operates Finca Dos Jefes and grows and educates people about coffee. In a project started several years ago they teamed up to try to solve a problem at the school. There were students walking hours from rural parts of the Comarca to go to school.
In an effort to help they worked on renovating some abandoned dormitory buildings and making the new dormitories food at least partially food self sufficient.
Richard and friends introduced the concept of raising chickens for food. We might thing that there was nothing special to the idea until you understand a bit of the culture that does not plan for tomorrow. When the first chickens were supplied and the people were educated to let them lay eggs, hatch the eggs and raise the hens until they stopped laying. Then and only then, to slaughter for the meat. On his first return trip Richard discovered all the chickens had been eaten. The concept of animal husbandry was alien and needed to be taught.
Another group from a US church has helped Carlos with still another project, a vegetable garden. The diet on the Comarca lacks quality and quantity, now at least the twenty nine students in the dormitory have a better balanced diet.
I visited the school with Richard and by coincidence a group from the Pennsylvania church was also there. We were given a tour of the school, the dormitory and the vegetable garden. Below are some photos of my experience.
At lunch I met a middle school student who can go to middle school because of the dorms. He walks eight hours to school and clearly could not do it daily, he now does it once a week. He appreciates what has been done to allow him an education.
For those who say the expats make no difference or worse that expat influence is not appreciated, you are dead wrong. People, regardless of where they are form can and do make a difference in the lives of other people.
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