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.