Day 1: Meeting with the Foundation

Hola, Jordan again!

We just concluded a meeting with the foundation that we’ll be working with while we’re down here. We learned a lot about the group and the indigenous people of Panama. The founders of the group are part of the Kunas, which is a very conservative group here in Panama. The men we met with explained that they are very closed off to the rest of society and it may be difficult to get permission to visit their reservation.

We were told that if we can go to the reservation we have to dress very conservatively. We have to wear long pants and long sleeves because they don’t approve of people showing skin. We also learned that 50% of Kunas have some type of disability– whether it be blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, etc.

The founders began this group out of a spiritual quest to help their community. They were very grateful to us that we are here to help them with this web site. As the writer of the group, I was the one responsible for interview questions (although the rest of the group did contribute, as well) which meant I asked the questions in English and Victoria translated them into Spanish so that the foundation leaders could understand. We video and audio recorded the interview so that we can hopefully use the footage on the site we build.

We already have two meetings tomorrow with people with disabilities from the foundation. I am looking forward to hearing their stories, even though I know it will be hard to hear, because I know that we will be able to spread their message to the general public. I hope that building this material and media for them will result in greater interest in their cause. The leaders told us that often times, indigenous groups feel overlooked by the Panamanian government because of their rural geography and cultural orthodoxy. Think of a group similar to the Amish in America. That is sort of what the Kunas are like– they live in thatch roof huts in villages in the jungle. They grow their own food, make their own clothes, and come into the city only when they need something specific like medical care.

I am glad that I get to see this side of the country. I wasn’t expecting a luxury vacation when I came here and I’m glad that I’m able to see how other groups and cultures live. It makes me appreciate my life so much more, and makes me so thankful that I am in a position where I can assist someone less fortunate that I am. I’m starting to think again about entering the nonprofit world. Its been a passion of mine for a long time and I feel like I actually know what I’m talking about when we have meetings to flesh out things relating to the organization.

I wish I had some more photos to post but I guess those will have to wait until tomorrow.

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