Note: This blog post was extracted from its original post on the Courts for Kids website. Read the original post here.
On March 19, 2015 a group of students from the College of Education at the University of Oregon traveled to Buena Vista to work alongside the community on a multipurpose court thanks to a partnership with Courts for Kids, an international NGO that connects volunteers with local organizations and communities to build courts in economically disadvantaged areas. Many thanks to Anibal for spearheading this life-changing project!
By Aníbal Cárdenas, Courts for Kids Panama Director
It was almost midnight when we arrived to the community, and we were surprised to see a group of community members waiting for us with fireworks, huge smiles and hugs.
The next morning we enjoyed traditional Panamanian food from the community and we started the prep work for the court that was partially started by the community. The group connected very well with the locals and gained their respect very quickly. Having a group that was composed of 13 women out of 16 total team members resulted in a cultural challenge of demonstrating that women can work as hard as men, but it was overcome easily.
We worked together despite a series of challenges, such as the mixer not working, the community running out of water and things happening on Panamanian time, which was a big test of patience for the group. Overcoming these challenges and delays, we worked extra hard, including evenings of work with headlamps. The last being a 15 hour- journey proposed by the volunteers and the community. And so, on our 5th day of work we finished the first court with Courts for Kids in Panama! Excitement and joy were everywhere and both community members and volunteers went to bed with big smiles and great spirits.
In addition to the work, the two groups had plenty of time to connect with one another. Panamanians taught the US group some traditional dances, including a Congo dance that has been passed down for generations celebrating their African heritage. The US group taught the Panamanians how to Cha Cha Slide. Midway through the trip was the two year anniversary of the community, complete with more traditional dances from children, inspiring words from community leaders and culminating in an epic soccer showdown.
The day after finishing, the group went on a well-deserved city tour in Panama City: (Panama Canal, Causeway and Casco Viejo) where we could see the huge gap between the rich and the poor in the country. We could contrast what it is to live in both faces of reality for Panamanians.
The inauguration was beautiful. There were kids everywhere playing and enjoying the court. We played games, we had some beautiful words from our trip leaders and community members, we ate cake together and then lights went off in the community, but right on time for more fireworks, and a beautiful night full of bright stars, hopefully a foreshadowing of the future sports stars that will come out of Buena Vista!
A gigantic thank you to the Quest Foundation and all other sponsors who helped make this project possible.