Submitted by Bridget Pasapane on Fri, 11/13/2015 - 9:56am
This guest post is the last of a three-part series highlighting Pennsylvania State University chapter member Julia Carter on her Society-sponsored study abroad trip to Panama. We hope you enjoyed reading about her journey as much as we did.
Click here to read Part One.
Click here to read Part Two.
Final Study Abroad Society Blog Post
By: Julia Carter
After working in the Global Brigades free medical clinic in the Darien region of Panama for close to a week, it was time for a new task. The environmental aspect of the trip was one that I was hesitant about, as I’m not very fond of extreme heat and physically demanding labor.
On the first day of the environmental portion of the trip, we visited a farm in Darien. The farm was called the “ideal” farm and used the holistic model that Global Brigades strives for. The man who owned the farm started it by himself many years ago in order to feed his family. There was no electricity and the only source of water was rainwater. The farm was completely self-sustainable by using clever engineering and strategic planning. The farm grew substantially from its original days and has had enough success to produce a massive surplus, which he sells to the locals. Seeing the farm was a way for us to visualize the main goal of Global Brigades, which was to use it as a model to replicate in other underprivileged areas.
After seeing the model farm, we went to our destination, which was a small native village called Embera Peru. It consisted of a central village hut used for meetings and native rituals and dances, but the people live in makeshift shacks. The economy was very poor, and the resources were scarce. We took a 20 minute hike to a place in the jungle behind the village, and we were shown the location where we were to construct our farms. On the first day, we carried the materials back to the location, and we mentally prepared ourselves for the next few days of physical labor.
Each day we hiked into the jungle to our farm location, as it was here where we constructed another central hut for the natives. To do this, we dug 6-foot deep holes for the support beams of the infrastructure and nailed together the framework. We also constructed a greenhouse where we planted 1,000 coffee plants.
It might not seem like a lot, but this work was very physically demanding, as we worked in 100 degree heat under the blazing sun. However, it was the impact on the community that was the most rewarding part of the entire trip. The coffee plants were projected to produce $16,000 in revenue for the Embera people, which will boost the economy and improve life in the village.
The people were so very grateful. Some shed tears and there were many hugs given. There was a mutual respect between Global Brigades and the village, and the work done is a true partnership and not a one-way relationship. I was grateful to be a part of this experience, as it helped me to reflect on my own life and the blessings that I have. The things that I have learned and the life lessons I’ve taken with me as a result of my time in Panama are endless.
I value being open to other cultures and regions, where people are different than myself, speak other languages, and have other traditions. This experience helped me realize that there are many people in the world who are less fortunate than others, but that speaks nothing about their character. Though less fortunate in certain aspects, they are some of the most grateful and happy people that I’ve ever met. They are very deserving and it was an honor to be a part of a team that helped make their lives a little better. This experience was made possible by The National Society of Leadership and Success, and I am very grateful for receiving the Global Leader Scholarship.
Friday, November 13, 2015