14/04/2015 by cc_admin

A dream come true: a multipurpose court in Buena Vista!

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.


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31/12/2014 by cc_admin

Congrats to the graduates!

Education is at the core of Cambio Creativo’s mission, which is why we so are proud of the students in Coco Solo and Buena Vista who are celebrating their mid-term and high school graduations this year. In particular, we would like to congratulate:

  • Reynaldo Rowe (mid-term, Buena Vista)
  • Benito Fernández (mid-term, Buena Vista)
  • Yarielis García (mid-term, Buena Vista)
  • Ada María Martínez (mid-term, Buena Vista)
  • Armando Álvares (mid-term, Coco Solo)
  • Joseph Cook (mid-term, Coco Solo)
  • Abdiel Rowe (high school, Buena Vista)
  • Ronaldo Fernández (high school, Buena Vista)
  • Kathy De León (high school, Coco Solo)


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30/11/2014 by cc_admin

A chain of love and a unique experience

By Jacquelin Tancredi, former teacher volunteer

I have always valued human connection and been fascinated by the power of its impact on our lives. It is natural to care for one another and teach one another because all though each of us is an individual, we are here together. Unfortunately, the world has been made up of very disheartening, and unjust systems that have corrupted our ability to be connected to one another by the instinctual feeling we are born with. I believe through education, by sharing experiences and knowledge, paired with the pursuit of happiness, we can together make our lives equal and together again.

February 2014, I moved to Panama to become a part of the community in Colon, Panama, more specifically, Coco Solo. I knew going in, that I wanted to become a part of the community there and really share my everything I could because my time there would only be about 4 months. For me, the best part of life is experiencing something completely out of your comfort zone and having every aspect of your surroundings new. This is exactly what moving there was for me.

My first day in Coco Solo was one of the most intense days of my life. It does not matter what happened, or how, but what does matter is that I will never forget it or how I felt. (But I am always more than happy to discuss with you if you ever want to reach out) In a matter of a few minutes of being there, I learned more about myself and the people there faster than I had learned anything before. We all have the innate ability to survive and work together. I also saw how instinctual it is to help one another without even knowing each other. I am like this, I am always aware of those around me, but to see it on such an extreme level and in such a unique place was an eye opener and a reminder of what is real.

This is something that is lost in the hustle and bustle of developed countries, and while undeveloped countries struggle in their own way, we all must understand with no thought at all, we succeed and thrive when we are together. I met Mikey Brown in a heroic circumstance the first few moments of my arrival at the center. He inspired and impressed me more than most people in my life and then we sat for hours talking. At the end of that first day, there was no need for words because we shared something in our souls that would last forever. We connected. We recognize and appreciate the most important parts of life. Unspoken, I knew we would be friends for a lifetime no matter where we were or what we were doing and the next 4 months would be better than I could have imagined.

I did not speak more than basic Spanish when I got there, but it did not matter. Universal language is spoken through expression, intonation and what is projected from your spirit. When I started working with the kids, I didn’t even remember that I did not speak Spanish because we just meshed. To be honest, when I think back, I don’t remember not understanding Spanish, because the kids taught me without me realizing it was happening. Lives merge together, children and adults the same become family. You learn from each other every moment. You are challenged more than ever before and you love what you do unconditionally.

For months now, I have struggled how to write a single post about my experience. I have written so much and then tried again, started something new and then tried again. Finally I decided it is not about my personal experience, because everyone’s is different, but it is about what the whole picture is. I can guarantee that living in Colon and having this magical yet incredibly difficult part of my life was one of the best things I have done so far. The community in Coco Solo gave me affirmation of my purpose. Never underestimate that we all live better when we are together and integrate ideas and lives.

I fell in love with each of those children and people and all I hope for is that I was able to share enough with them so that a part of me is there with them no matter where we may be. Each one of them is in my heart. I am left with all I learned from them and about myself, but grander than that, every day I think about how we can work together more and build a sustainable life that can continue all of their lives in supportive, ever growing environments. I know I will be back.

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02/11/2014 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo has changed my life

By Erick Ariel Rodriguez Cambio Creativo turned my life around in significant ways. For the past eight and a half months, I have been studying in the Faeco school at Universidad de Colón (Colon University). I am currently studying Engineering and Business Operations and Logistics. Ever since I graduated from 12th grade, I always wanted to go to college, but life circumstances made it impossible. Or so it seemed. A great person came to my life, Pastor Michael Brown, and the wonderful Cambio Creativo team — Rose, Maya, Blake, Jesús, Wendy and others — who have offered me unconditional help and support. They gave me a hand and God willing I have been able to move forward and achieve one of my goals, which was to get into college. However, not everything has been a bed of roses. This year I lost the person I love the most, my mother. She was, and continues to be, my source of inspiration. I know I will achieve the goals I have set for myself because she always wanted to see me succeed. Dear mother, up in the heavens, I promise I won’t fail you. Cambio Creativo will also ensure I reach the end goal, just as those whom I may never meet who provide the economic support which pays for my studies. Scholarships like mine allow youth to focus on positive and uplifting things— such as our studies— and be an example for others in the community. Many thanks to Cambio Creativo, Pastor Mikey and our supporters for believing in me and supporting me. Their investment will reap rewards for its beneficiaries, including myself. God bless and keep watch over you as you come and go. I love you guys.


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27/10/2014 by cc_admin

Youth Voices from a Moving Community: A Workshop at Cambio Creativo

Last summer I had the opportunity of collaborating with Panamanian youths from Cambio Creativo in several activities that took place in Coco Solo and Buena Vista. As their community has started to move from the Panama Canal Zone, near Colón and the Atlantic sea, to the interior land of Buenavista, Cambio Creativo has been organizing projects that support the relocation process. From cutting giant grass to planting fruit trees to making music, youngsters actively participated in the moving process and learned to confront the challenges of re-starting a new life in another place. Among all the different experiences I shared with the community, the one that I would briefly discuss in this entry is a creative media workshop I helped to facilitate and that focused on music, rhyming and flow.

For the workshop we met with a group of 17 teenagers at the space of Cambio Creativo in Coco Solo. During the previous days, I have talked with several of these youngsters about Reggae, their favorite music, and about making rhymes and singing. Music was something that all of them loved it and were very interested in learning to make. Some of them, like David, were proud of their knowledge of computer software for DJ-ing, and others like Javier, used to carry headphones all the time for listening to his favorite tunes, even while doing heavy duties at the country side. Inspired by the values of positive and conscious hip hop, we designed the workshop in order to foster unity, diversity, and having fun.

The takeaways from this workshop are quite revealing since they show the effectiveness of participatory pedagogies for developing skills such as performing, writing, collaboration, and improvisation. I was really impressed by the talent of all the youths that participated in the workshop and loved they way in which they could easily create a genuine collective performance. The final performance was like a collective poem in which they openly expressed not only the favorite things (e.g. futbol, music, peers) but also the fears (e.g. racism, fights) they are experiencing during the relocation process their community is living.

– Andrés Lombana-Bermúdez

Read the original blog post and listen to the musical collaboration by Cambio Creativo’s Jóvenes Luchadores.

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02/09/2014 by cc_admin

Planting Hope: Students from the Kellogg School of Management visit Cambio Creativo for Service Day

On August 27, 25 MBA students from the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, IL visited Cambio Creativo as part of a student-led, pre-orientation trip to Panama designed to allow first year students to develop deeper friendships prior to kicking off the school year.

For the past 6 years, Cambio Creativo has been providing educational programming in the arts and sciences to students in Coco Solo – an urban, coastal and historically marginalized neighborhood on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. 

However, the Panamanian government is currently in the process of leasing the land that houses the community to the Evergreen Shipping Company as part of the country’s efforts to expand the viability of the canal. 

The community is in the middle of moving inland to Buena Vista, an agriculturally-oriented region where Cambio Creativo will also relocate in order to support the community through the transition. We began the day touring Cambio Creativo’s Coco Solo facility, where we met with Blake Scott, the organization’s volunteer coordinator (and long-time contributor), and Michael Brown, Cambio Creativo’s co-founder. 

In addition to learning more about the organization’s history from Blake and Mikey, the visit allowed us to better understand the stark disparity between the challenging circumstances that many in Coco Solo face and the booming economic activity spawned by the canal area just across the street. Armed with a better foundation in Cambio Creativo’s history, we then drove to Buena Vista, where many from Coco Solo had already moved, to help continue the process of clearing the dense brush in order to plant various fruit trees around Cambio Creativo’s future home. 

With the help of many community members ranging from adult men and women to five-year-old boys and girls, we were able to clear enough land to plant 25 banana, lemon, orange, and yucca trees which had been generously donated by another organization. Overall, the day was an extremely meaningful experience that ultimately allowed our business students to learn first-hand about the complex issues related to economic development in Panama, as well as interact with the inspiring people of Cambio Creativo and Coco Solo. 

We’d like to thank Blake and Mikey for all of the prep work that went in to making our day with them possible, in addition to the many community members that worked alongside us throughout the day.  We wish them to best of luck throughout their transition to Buena Vista.

-Theodore Nash (Kellogg Student)


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30/08/2014 by cc_admin

Nicole Martin: Kitchen Storytelling, Cuentos de la Cocina

I conceptualized my August workshop, Kitchen Storytelling, Cuentos de la Cocina, to combine two of my greatest pleasures: food and stories. As a doctoral candidate in Performance Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, I believe strongly in the power of personal narratives. The ability to tell your own story – on your own terms – can be a transformative act. I wanted to learn the types of stories the children would share about the foods in their kitchens, homes, and community. I also wanted to give them a platform to let their individual voices be heard, valued, and respected. Having never traveled to Coco Solo or Panama, and with a limited range of Spanish-vocabulary, I thought food would serve as the perfect point of connection.

Though the execution of the workshop did not go precisely as planned, I can say with some confidence that my time there was valuable. At least, I hope it was. While I am quite certain that I took away more from my two-week visit to Coco Solo than I left behind, I still believe there were critical moments of exchange and learning. They patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, corrected my poor Spanish; I taught them words and phrases in English. And food did act as the common language for our cultural exchange. Through food, I learned the importance of the Center as a critical space for community connection as well as bodily, intellectual, and creative nurturance. And through food, I was able to express my sincere gratitude to the children and Cambio Creativo for allowing my visit.

To say goodbye and thank you, I baked the children a chocolate cake. I went to four supermarkets to find all the ingredients I needed; the venture prompted me to seriously think about the ease with which I access so many types of foods in the United States. On the day we delivered “el dulce” (the cake), we walked through the community inviting the children over to the Center to eat.

“¿Lo hizo (You made it)?” one kid asked with excitement.

“Sí,” I replied.

We walked hand-in-hand with the others back to the Center. It was a simple exchange. But it was one of the clearest conversations I had during my visit; the meaning behind his question and the importance of my answer were fully understood.

Nicole Martin
Doctoral Candidate
The University of Texas at Austin

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19/08/2014 by cc_admin

Community Development

14878368038_6e726e27b0_k Cambio Creativo’s community development program encompasses a variety of activities and focus areas. Our organization serves as a bridge between community members and employment, training, nutritional, recreational, housing and alternative educational opportunities. Currently, we connect youth over age 18 with job trainings and employment opportunities. We are also cultivating a group of youth who are participating in entrepreneurship workshops and a leadership development initiative called Jóvenes Luchadores. Additionally, we offer a supplemental nutrition program three days a week in Coco Solo for students participating in the after-school program as well any resident who needs a plate of food. Recently, we partnered with Courts for Kids to build a multi-purpose basketball court with the Buena Vista community and students from the University of Oregon. As the Coco Solo community transitions from the barracks to housing units in Buena Vista, Cambio Creativo has served as a community advocate in meetings with government officials. Once the move to Buena Vista is finalized, we will continue working with the Coco Solo community as well as surrounding neighborhoods to continue offering our services and programs. Because our main goal is to provide the community with tools and resources to fulfill their basic needs and pursue opportunities for growth and improvement, we hope to implement a microfinance program in the next five years.


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19/07/2014 by cc_admin

Spiritual Program

IMG_0690 Our Spiritual and Community Affairs Director Michael Brown works to address not only physical and educational needs, but also the spiritual and emotional aspects of their lives. For nearly two decades Pastor Brown has used faith and open dialogue to ease tensions, promote understanding and alternatives to violence within the Coco Solo community. As the community transitions to Buena Vista, interfaith dialogue will play an important role in the integration of Coco Solo residents with current Buena Vista neighbors, many of whom have lived in the area for decades. Through open dialogues with faith and community leaders, our goal is to create a coalition of leaders to jointly promote peaceful relations and ease potential tensions among all Buena Vista residents, as well offer spaces through which the community can come together regardless of race, creed, denomination, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age or physical or mental ability to discuss, share and promote the values and bonds that unite us as a people.


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17/06/2014 by cc_admin

Being at Cambio Creativo is a dream come true

This blog post, written by Bronson Herman was originally published in the blog Summer of RCAH, a Tumblr account from Bronson’s faculty where he is a senior. Thank you (tío) Bronson for sharing your experiences at Cambio Creativo!

For the summer I accepted an internship position as a project coordinator and teaching assistant with a small NGO, Cambio Creativo, in Coco Solo (Colón, Panamá). When my internship is completed in Panamá I will be making a return trip to the communities in Costa Rica that I lived with last summer during my study abroad program. Currently I live in the town of Portobelo on the Caribbean coast in an apartment with a Portuguese music school teacher and a Costa Rican archaeologist that live below me. With Cambio Creativo my role is to develop activities and projects for the afterschool program. Cambio Creativo serves as a location that stimulates cross cultural learning, critical thinking and self-determination through the arts. Additionally I will be collaborating with Blake Scott, a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin and volunteer coordinator of Cambio Creativo, to create an ESL-based business course for the teenagers. Other tasks include coordinating fundraiser activities, scheduling visiting artist workshops and producing media for greater exposure. As the second intern to ever participate in this developing program, focused on youth education, I was guided by their very first intern Jacquelin Tancredi.


A UMASS grad in Architecture and Design, Jacquelin also has extensive experience in NGOs in Latin America and countless adventures all around the world. While with Cambio Creativo she juggled several other projects including one in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, while also preparing for her next move to México City. On many occasions Jacquelin would claim she was not a teacher, but from the amount of knowledge I gained from her in our own interactions and the impact she had on the students we worked with, I would definitely have to disagree.


There were many elements that attracted me toward Cambio Creativo. Just reading the description on their website I saw common themes and values of the RCAH: “Cambio Creativo facilitates a space for cross-cultural education. We help each other find alternatives for social and economic development. Our programs are led by volunteers, teachers, artists and community members.” A little slice of the RCAH in Central America while working with a developing NGO and practicing my Spanish was a dream come true. Before arriving to Panamá the only thing I really knew about Coco Solo was that it was the location of the United States military base where my grandfather Wilbur Schall had been stationed. After the conclusion of WWII Wilbur lived in the very barracks that many of the students in Cambio Creativo call home today. My aunt has several letters from my grandfather chronicling the unbearable heat of the location in which after taking a shower you were already drenched in sweat. Many of the American soldiers donated some of their t-shirts to the shirtless indigenous women working the fields in the surrounding area. I never met my grandfather as he passed away before my birth, but this trip seemed like a way of retracing his footsteps. From his letters he basically described this exotic location as an unforgiving place with the climate and amount of insects he encountered. During my time here with Cambio Creativo I plan to share my family history with the youth of Coco Solo illustrating the fact I am not as much of an outsider as they may think.


The province of Colón in Panamá is neglected by the government creating problems with crime, violence and despair. But after visiting this region and meeting the people there, I learned there is also a great deal of faith that is contagious. My initial exposure to Coco Solo was via images on the web of dilapidated army barracks filled with rubble where the locals live without water, limited electricity and very poor sanitation conditions. A YouTube video titled Panamá’s Coco Solo: A Short Documentary, which offers a tour of this neighborhood by pastor Michael Brown, the honorary mayor of the town and board of director for Cambio Creativo, was what finally made me feel that Cambio Creativo was the right place for me. False promises by the Panamanian government and financial shortcomings caused these temporary housing units to become permanent homes. Adjacent to the Cambio Creativo community center and the homes of these citizens are two container terminals located on the northwest side of the Panamá Canal. These terminals are Colón Container Terminal and Manzanillo International Terminal which is the busiest container port in all of Latin America. Many taxi drivers do not know where Coco Solo is or choose to ignore it while others refuse to visit in fear of being robbed. Telling local Panamanians that you work in Coco Solo can elicit a wide range of reactions. From my own experience the majority have been of appreciation and curiosity. First pulling up to Coco Solo I was deeply affected seeing what these people have to endure on a daily basis just to survive.


A lot of my own personal concerns evaporated when I took my first step into Cambio Creativo’s community center where there is a library, a computer lab, and a classroom space. Children came flying down the stairs to swarm Jacquelin with hugs as some giggled and cheered through their gummy smiles. At this moment all I could do was smile. Cambio Creativo’s main purpose is to offer a safe space for the children of Coco Solo to dream, imagine and express themselves through many different mediums of art and education. These kids may not have a lot of material possessions, but they possess something with greater value that cannot be measured. Finished creative projects reveal that these children are intelligent, spirited and creative students who just need an outlet and support. Attention, respect and opportunity are what these kids need. Within my fifth trip to Cambio Creativo there were several students already referring to me as tío (uncle) Bronson. By far my favorite moments are when they critique Jacquelin and me for our accents while speaking Spanish. Many times it feels as though you have a flock of teachers inside the classroom giving directions. Through Cambio Creativo they have come to value their own abilities to learn and teach. Venturing to Coco Solo can be quite frustrating and exhausting while taking the packed public bus in the humid Panamanian climate, but seeing the smiling faces of the children at Cambio Creativo is a reinvigoration of life and energy. Most importantly for the community it is an important message of hope.


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