Day 5: A Village Hero

People never cease to amaze.

Kuna Nega

We went into an indigenous village today, Kuna Nega, where people from the Kuna tribe had relocated to the city. The village was right on the outskirts of the city, near the landfill. Conditions here are actually a little worse than many of the other villages we’ve seen because of all the trash and pollution littering the area. It looked sort of like the slums I described on the first day, but as we got farther back into the village, some of the homes actually weren’t too terrible.

I guess I didn’t mention that the founders of Fundacion Bendaked are all ministers, and they have many ties and relationships with other ministers in the city. We met with the minister and a leader of this village, and met the minister’s family as well. The family was very well spoken and polite and they wore clean clothes but I assumed they were similar to the other families we’ve met, poor, uneducated, and in dire circumstances. However, one of the minister’s daughters, whom we interviewed, explained that she was actually a medical doctor (and she was only 28 years old). I was shocked. Here is a young woman: pretty, educated, and obviously brilliant, who still lives in a poverty-stricken, dirty, and primitive community.

shack in the village

This little boy came out and shook everyone's hands when we came to his home

She said that she works in communities and villages like this throughout the country and is paid by a private institute to provide health care to those in desperate need. I could not get over the generosity of this woman. She could easily be working at the city’s hospital or a private clinic, living in one of the luxurious high rises in the city, but instead she chooses to live and work here, to help the people with whom she grew up.

The work this woman is doing is so noble and the villagers love her for it. She is their hero. The children run out to greet her and scream her name. I am sure  they see her as a saving grace for their community. We hiked up and down hills/mountains visiting 4 homes today. I was a lot more hands off because the visual team needs more content than I do for the site. I kind of wandered around outside the houses, taking in the sights and trying to play with the children. I saw a group of women and their kids bathing in the stream by one of the homes.

banana tree

As we left the village to avoid rain, I thought how ready we all were to get back to the comfort of our villas. But yet for the people in this village, this is home. These conditions: the lack of electricity and plumbing, the trash, the smell– are the things that define home for the 1,000 displaced Kuna people who live there. It is something I cannot fathom; yet I’ve seen it up close and personal for the past 5 days. This trip has taught me so much about other cultures and about myself. I am so thankful for the work we are doing down here.

view from the village
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