By Melissa Mazurkewicz
I started working with Cambio Creativo in March 2015. I switched from working with coffee production as a Peace Corps Volunteer to working with the youth and communities of Coco Solo and Buena Vista. As soon as I started, I hit the ground running with the Courts for Kids multipurpose court project in Buena Vista. There was so much to learn and do that it felt like there was never enough time in the day. But, the end result was absolutely worth it. As I look back on the last 6 months and how much Cambio Creativo has become a large part of my life, I wanted to share the top 5 “C”s that have stood out to me:
Congo — The kids love to dance congo and are proud of their talent and heritage. They got to dance their hearts out during our African heritage celebration in May and busy practicing for another performance at an upcoming entrepreneurial event in September. (The event, Emprendedores por el Desarrollo or ExD will be September 19th in Casco Viejo, Panama City.)
Challenges — While I have lived in Panama for over 3 years, I am still learning to navigate the Panamanian culture. We recently formed a new team at Cambio Creativo and we are learning the art of communication and how to bring together many diverse ideas and backgrounds. We are a small NGO, so we must always be flexible, innovative and able to make the most of the resources we have available.
Coco Solo — Not many people know about Coco Solo, much less the vibrant community that breathes life into it. In the beginning many taxi drivers did not want to take me to Coco Solo because of unsubstantiated stereotypes of the area being unsafe. Once you look past the state of the buildings and take a closer look the lovely people you inhabit them, it becomes obvious that there is nothing to fear and so much to gain from their experiences and warmth. I have quickly forgotten that I am a ¨foreigner¨ and have become another member of the Coco Solo community. I am eager to see how the community grows and transforms after the transition to Buena Vista.
Collaboration — I have met so many new friends and partners during my short time at Cambio Creativo. The work we are trying to do cannot be done alone. I enjoy seeing how everyone’s talents and contributions are helping the organization grow. It is also encouraging to see how the sharing of knowledge and experience goes both ways — the youth have as much to teach as the volunteers and partners do. [Learn how you can support Cambio Creativo’s efforts during its upcoming crowdfunding campaign with Global Giving: http://bit.ly/SupportCambioCreativo.]
Children — They have so much energy. They make the long days and the challenges worth it. Every afternoon when the kids arrive for tutoring, I look forward to what they have to say and contribute. I love being able to support Cambio Creativo´s programs in my capacity as Executive Director, encouraging each child to know their value and offer them opportunities to explore the world around them.
Thank you Olive Nwosu for the amazing photos!