Outskirts of Changuinola, October 21, 2010—
In order to most effectively address and sustain the basic needs and primary health care of the local Guomi, or Guaymi, (indigenous) people of the Bocas del Toro region, it is critical that all sectors work together to meet community needs. Therefore, the Operation Safe Drinking Water (OSDW) team met up with a multi-purpose, Changuinola-based community organization named Centro Infantil Cristiano, last Thursday in Almirante.
Local Panamanian community organizer, Melva Marriot de Brid, is the ambitious and charismatic founder and president of two different community-based organizations: Centro Infantil Cristiano, which seeks to address mother and children’s health and welfare, and Centro de Ayuda y Rehabilitacion de Viviendas, which seeks to address drug and alcohol addiction throughout the Almirante region. Melva met the OSDW team in downtown Almirante, along with her two colleagues: former local preacher, Edgardo, and Rupert Harris, who is trying to set up youth sports development programs, in his spare time, throughout the area—mainly football, volleyball, and baseball.
Melva and her enthusiastic team (all wearing red shirts in the photos) took OSDW to three different Guomi (or Guyami) communities just outside of downtown Changuinola: San San Puente, Puente Negro, and Tibiti. She took OSDW to these communities to demonstrate the need for community rain-water catchment systems and basic primary health care education, as well as to deliver donated shoes to school children, some clothes, and snacks. NOTE: Even though public schools are free in Panama, families are still responsible for purchasing a school uniform, shoes, books, school supplies, and provide their own transportation to school—which is mainly walking through grassy (snake-filled) fields, across swamps and sometimes, crossing an un-bridged river.
Melva explained to OSDW that aside from distributing donated items to these communities-- which have an 80% unemployment rate; lack of public infrastructure (such as sidewalks, sanitation systems, electricity, poor public services, etc. ); low levels of education; poor housing conditions; and an average family size of 6 children-- Centro Infantil Cristiano has successfully launched several sewing income generation projects with local women’s groups; built 3 community “comedors” (or kitchens) where she has taught mothers how to prepare and cook nutritious foods for their families; and through Centro de Ayuda y Rehabilitacion de Viviendas, they have personally escorted extreme drug addicts, a 9-hour bus ride, to professional drug rehabilitation facilities in Panama City (Melva’s dream is to create a drug and alcohol rehab community home in Almirante.) In addition, Melva has authored a cook book, featuring typical Bocas region cuisine, entitled “Cocina Tipica de Bocas del Toro” (published in Spanish only, 2008), with all proceeds going to support her organizations.
Basically, Centro Infantil Cristiano has asked OSDW to partner in the creation of 6 new community comedors (kitchens) in the Changuinola outskirts--complete with nutritional education, cooking lessons and basic water/sanitation prevention and education— by installing 6 new community rain catchment water systems. Therefore, OSDW and Centro Infantil Cristiano will be working together to create 6 new community comedors throughout the region, complete with nutrition and sanitation awareness and education, as well as 6 community water tanks to provide clean, safe drinking, cooking and cleaning water.
To learn more about this joint community project, to donate, or participate, please contact OSDW at email@example.com or visit http://operationsafedrinkingwater.org.