13 November 2016

Coming from a culture with material wealth and many education opportunities, it is often a challenge for UMVIM Volunteers to listen and learn from those living in poor societies.  One such place exists in the jungle society of the primitive Ngabe people of Panama.

A trained UMVIM Team that had been taught about cultural diversity and collaboration returned to Panama for several consecutive years to partner with the Ngabe people.  The first inclination was to decide on OUR plan for them and only provide short-term clinic services.  We soon learned through the input of our missionary host, Rhett Thompson and local leaders that a partnership where Ngabe goals and needs were identified worked best.  A three-part health promoter curriculum was developed to address issues of sanitation, disease transmission and maternal/sexual health.  Students volunteered or were selected by their communities to take part.  Most of the students had marginal reading skills from either zero to up to 3rd grade level.  None had successfully completed a formal education program until they “graduated” from this 3 week course.

Through the formation of friendships and collaboration,  over 22 Ngabe students have completed the course of which over half continue to serve in their communities.  One trained health promoter who was explaining the program to visitors said, “Most people in our country just think we are dirty and ignorant, but…you (UMVIM Team) believed in us!”   What a blessing for our UMVIM group to be partners in a successful program that has blossomed under the direction of our Panama brothers and sisters.  God is Good…. All the Time!
Jane Dunn

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