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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03/04/2014 by cc_admin



In the Coco Solo Community, seeing the need to help the youth and continue with a positive change, we have gathered a group of young people that we consider, have great potential to influence the others in their circles, with the support of all the people that make up the Cambio Creativo team.

We have been meeting, after school, with a group of 12 young people every thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. since February 10th.

The objective is to work with necessary subjects for the personal training, instilling values and practical advice to coexist and to know how to deal with real life around us. We know that it is necessary to educate the young, so that when they are adults, they don’t stray from the correct path. We have decided on a name for the youth group that identifies us and it is: JOVENES LUCHADORES. We decided on this name after several votes, with the objective of identifying ourselves with the daily struggles that each and every one of them has to confront to get ahead in life, most do not have the economic resources to be able to study and reach their dreams of becoming a professional.

Now, every member is creating a logo that represents de name we have chosen and on the next meeting, we will vote for the best one

We are all very motivated and we want to train them with the knowledge and necessary tools for them to:

-educate other young people and also become part of this new iniative of change
-be able to satisfactorily develop themselves intellectually as well as in other comprehensive formation areas
-represent the Community and the Foundation and
-be able to make correct desicions wherever life leads them.

Jesús Blanco
Cambio Creativo

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26/03/2014 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo participates in the 3rd Annual Festival Abierto in Panama City

Festival Abierto is a colorful and art-filled festival centered around protecting the environment and fostering eco-friendly lifestyles through culture, science, and education. Non-profits and ONGs are the backbone of Festival Abierto, presenting and expressing what they are doing to participants through creative, physical, and artistic activities. This huge outdoor 2-day event took place in Parque Omar, with lots of music, activities, and tons of incredible energy. Cambio Creativo was able to participate this year for the third time in a row with great success.

Saturday, March 22, we set up our booth at Parque Omar at 9 am, completely unaware that the day would be filled with so many new opportunities and future connections. Other participating ONGs had incredible set-ups and engaging activities, which to be honest, was slightly intimidating because we were more modest in comparison, but this did not hold us back at all….the people were all so drawn to WHO we are, WHAT we are doing, and HOW they could help. Our story, our history, and what we have accomplished holds more weight than any activity or display. And it was incredible to see how evident this was to those around us and the impact it has.

In particular, festival goers were drawn to our Alphabet Song, a project in which students chose words to represent each letter, photographed a visual representation of these words, and then wrote and recorded an accompanying song. People from all ages and backgrounds stopped to take pictures of it, ask how it was made, and were in awe that the children of Coco Solo MADE it!

Pose, smile, snap!

The children painted a canvas picture frame to be displayed for passerbys to take “selfies” in. Another success! So many people wanted to take pictures: “¿Puedo tomarme una foto?”


“¡Sí! ¡Claro que sí!”

Some even chose to wear the masks the student created in a taller last year.


Sunday, March 23, on the final day of the festival, we were approached by TVN Channel 2 news for an interview! As the day proceeded, more festival goers stopped by to spend time with us. Some of the Cambio Creativo students also came, and they had a blast! They interacted with almost every single they came into contact with, opening their eyes to new opportunities and drawing more people in to work with us.

Through our participation at Festival Abierto it was evident that we are making a difference: one small step at a time, and in a way that is fun, touching, and will have a long term effect on these children’s lives through interactive and creative exchanges.

By the end of the weekend, we had a list of folks who are interested in volunteering with Cambio Creativo through workshops! What a wonderful weekend. I can’t wait for all the new volunteers and fun to come. Here we go, Cambio Creativo!

-Jacquelin Tancredi

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18/01/2014 by cc_admin

Uncovering the History and Geography of Coco Solo

_DSC0485 On January 7, 2014, I had the pleasure of organizing a workshop on the history and geography of Coco Solo. Joined by valiant guests Ela Spalding of Estudio Nuboso and Project Suelo residents Claire Pentecost and Brian Holmes, as well as our team of consultants from the University of Texas at Austin, we embarked on a boisterous tour to learn about the people and buildings that once occupied this place. _DSC0509 Coco Solo was built in 1918 as a submarine base of the US Navy. In 1957, the area was transferred to the Panama Canal Company (which later became the Panama Canal Commission) for staff housing. PCC employees and their families lived in the 285 living quarters of the Coco Solo townsite until the mid-1990s. We visited the locations of the former Coco Solo store, supermarket, post office, gymnasium, and theatre. We also learned that the area had once been home to a church and an elementary school. Children and adults alike were excited to see old maps and photos of their community. _DSC0505 After the walk, youth used paints to create maps of the community, marking out places of significance to them and sites we had visited on the tour. The workshop helped them connect with the history of their home and its importance as part of the former American-controlled Panama Canal Zone. P1110667 -Martin Danyluk


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03/12/2013 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo: An Unwavering Vision

Dear Friends of Cambio Creativo:

Cambio Creativo has an unlikely story. Our organization started against all odds, without funds or much experience. But we have an unwavering vision and this has been priceless. We envisioned an organization driven by the serious needs of the youth in the community, run by Coco Solo residents, and that also created an international network of solidarity. We wanted to create a space open to cross-cultural collaboration, where community members and visitors could exchange knowledge and skills. We wanted to break stereotypes through consciousness-raising and work together to empower Coco Solo youth.

Today we are doing just that, our vision has come together.

We now have an educational center and a library open to 150+ students who attend after-school classes 3 times a week. We facilitate monthly workshops, training programs, and field trips. We host international volunteers including consultants from the University of Texas. And we collaborate with such amazing and diverse organizations such as Roba Morena, Bio Museo, Earth Train, Estudio Nuboso, and Festival Abierto. All of our paid staff are Coco Solo residents, thanks to a number of prestigious grants.

However, this year will be one of our most challenging. But our vision and commitment has not wavered.

The Panamanian government has sold the land in Coco Solo to an international shipping company so they can expand their ports and yards. Over half the Coco Solo population have been relocated to a new community to Buena Vista, some 25 miles away.The rest of the Coco Solo community, however, is still waiting for their houses to be constructed. Our community has been divided, and yet Cambio Creativo is still operating educational programming in both communities.

To face these challenges and continue to improve the quality of educational opportunity for our students, we need your help more than ever. We need you to be in solidarity with the youth of Coco Solo and be part of our international community.

Please donate to our materializing vision. For this year, we need to raise $10,000 for student scholarships, program operating costs, our emergency fund, and our annual Christmas party. We truly appreciate your support.

Happy Holidays! And much love,

Cambio Creativo Family


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29/11/2013 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo performs at the Bio Museum at event hosted by Jane Goodall

Greetings to all and blessings, it has been and uplifting experience for me being the responsible person for the presentation made at the Panama City Bio Museum by Cambio Creativo foundation. This event was organized by Earth Train foundation for the arrival of biologist Jane Goodall to Panama, with the purpose that the children of other foundations and all the representatives of the indigenous ethnic groups in the country could join and expose their experiences.

This was an unforgettable experience for our team and the 14 young participants from Coco Solo since we learned a lot about our country. We created, organized and performed a play whose title was “Love for Nature instead of Love for Money”. The play tells the story of the relationship that exists between mankind, the animals, nature and God. We also performed a Congo Folk Dance, with a song created by us, where the love of God and respect for Nature is also expressed. It was a great pleasure being able to personally meet Dr. Jane Goodall and we give a special thank you to Mrs. Halit, organizer of this event. Always giving thanks to God for taking us and bringing us back in health in these two days that we spent out of our homes.

-Jesus David Castro

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27/11/2013 by cc_admin

Congo Dance & Music Workshop

The Congo dance is an ethnic dance that comes from Africa that is performed in the area of Colon. Nueva Jerusalen and Cambio Creativo want to accomplish that the children and young people of our foundation identify themselves with the culture and folklore of the region where they have grown up. I think that if we accomplish this goal we will be able to say that a great change is really manifesting itself in the mentality of the community since we have been losing these roots. In the community of Coco Solo only the old people know these traditions. They have belonged to folkloric organizations and we want them to join the vision that we have and participate in an active way as an entity of positive change, sharing their experiences with the young ones. Like the case of Mrs. Gloria Forsythe, who was a Congo queen and represented her culture for many years. This lady has been working with us, forming a group with the children that participated in a performance at the Bio Museum on November 14th. Because of this, many children and youngsters are very excited and want to be part of this project that complements the education. This cultural project includes training in percussion, dance, choreography and dance in the Congo culture.

- Jesus David Castro

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27/10/2013 by cc_admin

A Day for Community Gathering

After the moving of some neighbors from Coco Solo to Buena Vista, the majority of the children that we help in the center are already in Buena Vista. For this reason we had a family get-together at the church of Colon city. We hired a bus to bring and take back the children and youngsters and thank God we had a pleasant moment. We remembered old times and rejoiced in the Lord. I take the opportunity to extend our gratitude to all the people that makes this a reality, for all the support they provide, may God bless you all.
- Pastor Michael Brown

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19/09/2013 by cc_admin

Family Day in Buena Vista

We took the opportunity to share a family day in the grounds that the Government is handing over to us for the construction of our Buena Vista Center. We had a special moment with the neighbors in the area. The amazing thing that day, was noticing that it was very hot because of the sun, nevertheless, the children didn’t even notice, they were so happy. We sang Church songs, we prayed and shared the food that we brought which was rice with chicken. Everybody ate and some had seconds, nobody was left without food.
- Pastor Michael Brown

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17/09/2013 by cc_admin

Un Buen Futuro: video made by Coco Solo youth is presented in Toronto, Canada

A few months ago, I received an email from a colleague of mine from Syracuse University, Katie Micak. She was organizing a night of video performance at The Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts in Toronto. This event  was part of Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche Arts Festival which took place on October 5, 2013. She asked me to send video work that would be shown alongside the work of very successful and compelling artists. Also, the world renown Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was headlining the festival.

The theme of the video exhibition was “13”. Most of the kids we work with are around this age, so we decided to concentrate thematically on what it means to be this age. During the video workshop, which we facilitated to produce our video piece, youth became familiar with the video camera functions and began practicing in the classroom. They then ventured out to interview young and old Coco Solo residents about how they envisioned their life to be when they turned 13 or what they remember from being 13 years old.

The youth made a number of successful interviews, but the more interesting footage recorded moments when the youth were performing for the camera in their own voice. This footage really gives the viewer compelling insight of what it means to be 13.  As viewers we are privileged to have the opportunity to see these youths interactions among themselves, and their humor, creativity, and precociousness.

- Rose Marie Cromwell

Un Buen Futuro from Cambio Creativo on Vimeo.

[Los jóvenes de Coco Solo condujeron entrevistas con miembros de la comunidad. Ellos le preguntaron cómo se imaginan su vida a los 13 años, o cuáles son sus recuerdos de aquella época. El video no solo presenta las anécdotas de los 13 años, sino tambien salen a relucir las contradicciones de la juventud y la adultez, lo positivo y negativo, y la agresión y sensibilidad que estos jóvenes viven en su día a día.]

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