April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Monday, January 14, 2008

What is the Peace Corps doing in Panama

The Peace Corps in Panamá has four, soon to be five, sectors. April and I are in the Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) and Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) sectors, respectively. I'll post more about our work in another post.

The other sectors are Community Economic Development (CED), Environmental Health (EH) (which enter service together), and the soon to begin Tourism and English Advising (TEA), which will enter with SAS and CEC volunteers.

CED Volunteers work with small businesses, cooperatives, and other community groups to enhance their planning, accounting, and management skills. They are generally in slightly less rural settings, where basic amenities (water, sanitation, electricity, transportation) are already established. For example, Fred in our region works with a panaderia (bakery) to help them transition from a group of women working together into a money-making business, with investments in equipment and supplies to enable greater production and improved sales.
A world map that many volunteers work with the schools and students to paint on a school wall

EH Volunteers work with sanitation products including aquaducts (water supply from streams to storage tanks to PVC piping to each house) and latrines, as well as nutrition education. They are generally in more campo (remote) areas, obviously possibly without water, normally without electricity, and tougher transportation (if it was easy to get the cement blocks there, somebody would have done it already ;). Our region just got its only EH Volunteer, as part of a married couple (the wife is CED).
Two volunteers preparing for a community fair about AIDS-HIV.

TEA Volunteers will be working to assist areas that are being visited by increasing numbers of tourists, yet lack infrastructure or skills to accomodate them. For instance, the port town where we catch the boat to our island also serves the international nature reserve of Isla Coiba (check any Panamá tourism book to read more about Coiba; we´ll actually be visiting there later this week to work with the park rangers on their English skills) and thus numerous tourists go through there. Yet there is nowhere to spend the night, no public bathrooms, and no one speaks English well enough to assist a confused tourist. The TEA program in Panamá is starting with the Group that arrives in April, so we´ll see how it pans out. We´ve heard that initially there are only 10 volunteers in that sector.
April teaching English in our community.
You can learn more about these, and other sectors in other countries, at http://www.peacecorps.gov/, click on What do Volunteers Do? on the left, or directly at
http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatvol

1 comment:

NIA said...

Hi Kevin and April. This is Nia Vestal from Harrison, MT. I wanted to let you know that a card was sent your way from the Spanish class. Also, our school has an internet that blocks out any blogs for students. The Administrator is trying to reroute the blogger website so the kids can see your page. I sent in the Peace Corps form for a phone call so we should hear whether or not that will go through. Hope we can begin to communicate at least twice a month with each other. Sounds like you are both doing neat things.