Tears Were Flowing, and Yes…They were Mine

Scene: Panama

Set: Panama City/ El Chumical

Take: Day 2 (technically Day 3 if you include travel)

So I’d like to say that today was fairly successful. I laughed, I cried. I bonded with my fellow teammates, and I bonded with some Panamanian families. All-in-all, it was an incredible day.

It began with another van ride out to Panama City where we were dropped off in a super sketchy street, where we dodged some insane locals and ran into a gated apartment building right off the street. Here is where we met our first family whose child suffers from cerebral palsy. The kid was only 21 months and could still not talk or hold his head up. Halfway through the interview, the mother began crying as she tried to explain her hopes for the future and how difficult it is receiving help and paying for treatment. I looked at our translator, Victoria, who was also shedding tears and completely lost it. It was so sad to witness this innocent child, in his mothers arms, suffering from this condition and listening to their story. Their story immediately inspired me and reiterated how important this project is for them. It is not just about the children who need help, but it’s also about their families. It’s about making their lives easier as they deal day-to-day with their child’s condition.

As we all jumped into the van (avoiding the crazy locals) after the interview was over, and drove towards El Chumical village, my heart was completely devoted to this project. Randy looked at me and said, “I heard you shed some tears in there.” I shyly grinned and said, “Yeah, I couldn’t help myself. It was just so sad.” And he said to me, “It’s a good sign when you’re already crying during the first interview. It means your hearts in the project.”

When we arrived in the second village, we had to physically step out of the van and walk to the concrete homes  in which the two other families lived. We gathered some fans along the way as we walked to the homes. About 8 boys decided that, hey! let’s see what they’re up to!” I assume that this village we were in were not used to outsiders. Victoria, our translator, informed us later that this community does not allow anyone live in their area but the Kuna indigineous tribe. So, even though this particular tribe did not live in the specified government reservations, it was like a second little village with only Kuna ties. Let’s just say that for the rest of the entire time we were there, the boys fell in love with Erika. She entertained them and took pictures of them (aka distracted them so as not to make noise) while we were filming the interviews with the two different families.

During the interviews, we met another little boy who had a slightly different disorder where his feet were swollen and crooked and therefore, could not walk. His mother, dressed in Kuna molas, was more reserved telling us her story than the first mother. She also needed a Kuna translator, which we actually had on handy (we had picked up a governmental Kuna official along the way to the village). It was crazy. Jordan (our interviewer) would ask a question to the interviewee which would need translating by Victoria, and then Victoria’s Spanish would have to be translated by the governmental official into the Kuna dialect. Therefore, there were a total of four people communicating all together.

The last interview was the most emotional. The little girl had a severe case of cerebral palsy and had to be lain in a stroller at most times. She could not walk, and looked to be only the age of 4. However, she was 10 years old. Her family stated that they had given up all hope for help when she was about 4, and therefore for 6 years she has not received any therapy or seen a doctor. It costs them only $20 to get to town and back, and they can’t afford it. Sometimes they can’t afford to eat. The mother has to stay home with the children while the father goes to town and works. His salary alone can not pay for the medical treatment and sustainability of life that they need. The mother stated during the interview that sometimes, when they have food, they make sure and feed the little girl before the other two children because of her disability. She is weaker and therefore needs more food for strength. The mother did say that she has another woman who comes by and provides them with free milk on occasion. So, so, sooooooooooooooooo sad.

All-in all, throughout their stories, I found inspired by them and their strength. To be able to move away from all you’ve ever known in the Kuna reservations to come closer to the city in order to find better medical care and support is incredible. I can’t wait to meet the other families that we are to come into contact with in the next couple of days and hear their story.

Stay tuned!

Fun Moments of the Day:

1. Getting dropped off on a sketchy street in Panama City

2. Dancing to Enrique Iglesias with Michy Mich on the couch

3. Playing pointless games in the van on Michy Mich’s phone

4. Getting waved and yelled at by construction workers on the side of the road

5. Being squished in the van with the Randy so-called “skinny group”

6. Being bombarded and pestered by little Kuna children while conducting interviews

7. Bettina coming up with a name for our group, possibly “Team Rando” but I prefer “Team Rambo”

8. Playing Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” right after stating how dreary our villa living room was

9. Watching exotic Panamanian television music videos

10. Laughing at Randy’s seductive profile picture & him “secretively” taking photos using his inspector gadget camera of the Kuna government lady while stating “it’s my cover”


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