We were in Panama from 1969-71.
We were in the last group to do our full two years before PC was sent on sabbatical for 20 years.
Sherwood and Carol Guernsey.
As volunteers, we were in La Laguna de Pocri, south of Las Tablas in the Province of Los Santos. Carol was in the Azuero Women’s Program, and Sherwood, known as “Miguel” in Panama, worked in agriculture with Segundo Cano as his mentor.
La Laguna is a small village, and we knew just about everybody. We thought those two years were the absolute best of our lives.
But then for 40 years, we had no contact with anyone in Panama. We thought it would be awkward trying to relate to our campesino friends after we got into our gringo lives at home, that “You can’t go home again” feeling. But after 40 years, in 2011, we got this yearning to go back to La Laguna, to see if it was even still on the map.
The town had changed, but yet it hadn’t. The casas de quincha were mostly gone, with their roof tiles sold off to the new hotel owners, and replaced with cement block houses with tin roofs.
Our little mud house is still there, though. They have running water and electricity, and stoves. The women no longer spend their days finding firewood and trekking to the river. But the people and the music and the jokes are all the same. After plenty of paseando and celebrando and a few cervezas, we told them that we wanted to work with them again to help the village in whatever they thought it needed.
La Laguna de Pocrí, Los Santos, Panamá.
We called a community meeting and more people came than ever came to a meeting 40 years ago! They prioritized computers for the town and school, English classes, and a baseball field.
People were very eager to participate. We organized committees for each project, and jumped right back in. We coordinate from Massachusetts, and have made 2 more trips since that first one.
Panama has benefitted enormously from the canal, as now the fees go to Panama and not to the U.S. They have invested in tons of infrastructure, and there is money available for projects, if you know who and where to ask for it.
Panama’s biggest problem now is that there are plenty of jobs, but there are not enough people qualified to fill them. What they need is computer skills and English.
Computer Lab in La Laguna de Pocri, Los Santos, Panamá. Laboratorio de Computación en La Laguna de Pocrí, Los Santos, Panamá.
This April, one year later, the computer center in the school opened, as you can see in the pictures below. We hope to have it connected to the internet in a few months.
Panamanians love to party, and so “La Inauguración” was a great opportunity to do so. We never dreamed that this could happen, but we are so very glad we have gotten re-involved.