It's been almost 6 months since we held the annual Few for Change scholarship ceremony in Quebrada Guabo, Panama. Each year we learn more about our students, iron out more kinks in the process that is international non-profit work, and have deeper and more strategic conversations with our volunteers, parents, and community members. So, as a halfway point between this year and the next, let's review some of the best photos and great moments that marked the 2018 Panama trip!
1. We're baaaack!
After being away for a full year, it's always great to reconnect with our volunteers, see how our students have grown, and finally meet our new scholarship recipients. It's also fun to see how the Few for Change team has grown in size over the years. Soon we'll have to take our group photo in panorama mode!
2. ¿Cómo te llamas?
Few for Change co-founder Tim signs in students while coordinator Ramon, university scholar Edgar, and family members look on. Sometimes when we haven't seen our students for a year, or when we are meeting one for the first time, we ask "¿Cómo te llamas?", or, "What's your name?" often followed by laughs (in the event a student has just grown up beyond recognition) or excited smiles and high fives (when we finally put a face to the name of someone that we only know via their scholarship application).
3. Books for Change
This year we brought a slew of books down to share with our students - and it looks like they caught the attention of the older and younger generations too! Though it is too logistically challenging to start a lending library yet, as our students live in several different communities, we wanted to share the joys of reading and gave each scholarship recipient a book to take home after the ceremony. We hope that by increasing access to books, and making reading fun, we can help instill a love of reading and improve students' reading skills. Read more about this initiative here.
4. La Soñadora
"El Soñador" means "the dreamer" - an appropriate title for such a driven and inspiring individual. We met Olivia, above, in 2016 when she was entering the 7th grade. Flash forward to two years later and she is already graduating from high school! You see, Olivia had had to drop out of school because her father did not have enough money to continue to send her to school. But Olivia, being the dreamer and independent spirit she is, returned to school as an adult. She also worked to support herself by doing laundry and making traditional Ngäbe dresses, in order to make her dreams a reality.
5. An Engaged Community
Meet Rogelio - he is the father of FFC scholar Edwin and an active member of his community. As a successful professional and advocate of education, he is also a great role model for our students. It is involved parents like these that make our program successful, by showing their support, volunteering their time, and demonstrating a passion for improving their communities.
6. Old Faces, New Stories
A surprise visitor at the 2018 scholarship ceremony was former scholar Aquilino, who graduated high school five years ago. We hadn't heard from him in a long time, but it turns out he is doing well! Aquilino had been in university for three semesters and was about to transfer to a different one, to study banking and finance. We enjoyed catching up, hearing about his plans for the future, and finding out that he was still working on his education!
7. A Picture of Success
Edgar has been a FFC scholar since 2014, and is currently enrolled in a 6 year university program to obtain a degree in information technology. Edgar has come so far, and we know he is going places! Read more about what inspires him to keep moving forward, here.
8. Go Fish
Some of the best cross-cultural moments come from simple things, like play. Here the FFC volunteer staff teaches local kids how to play "Go Fish". Sometimes we find that we know the same games, too, even though we live thousands of miles apart.
9. Mountain Life
One of the best parts of the trip (there are many!) is heading deep into the mountains to stay with our coordinator, Ramon, and his family. A long, bumpy ride in the back of a truck takes us over washed out roads and up through cool, misty forests, where the telltale Panamanian humidity drops away and the air finally feels refreshing. Ramon lives in the village of Hato Ratón, where a few of our scholarship recipients also live. This community is perched on a mountainside with views to the ocean, and a stiff breeze frequently blowing. Ramon is a wonderful host, and this year local kid and FFC scholar Fabian joined to do the cooking for us. We enjoy the long discussions, the chance to get away, and the opportunity to spend time in the communities where our students and volunteers really live.
10. The Views
The Panamanian landscape is so different from our own, though at the same time bears some familiarity. Its rugged beauty reflects the struggles and strength of the people that live there; people and place cannot be separated. The clear, brisk air keeps us present, reminding us to slow down and appreciate where we are, and the relationships we have built together. As we look out over these ancient mountains, we can see a bright future taking shape on the horizon.