This page has been in much need of an update, so here is where we are about a year and a half into the Expats Give Back initiative. The initiative was originally conceived as a way to organize and encourage volunteerism and charity support among expats living in Panama. The goal has been not to reinvent the wheel, but to work with already established charities who are doing good work on the ground and to identify what their needs are where we as a community are able to help.
Most ExPats living in Panama, even if we were not considered well off in our home country, live a life that is considerably more opulent than the average Panamanian, as 85% of workers in Panama make less than $1000 a month, and 23% make less than $400. While the skyscrapers of Panama City may do their best to try to hide it, the truth is there is a lot of need in Panama. Almost 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, and this number is even higher for children, with over half living in poverty, and almost 1 in 5 suffering from malnutrition. Panama’s indigenous population also is particularly negatively effected, with over 80% living in poverty. Panama is a country that has given a new home and a new life to many of us who have moved here, so I believe it’s only fair that we give something back to Panama.
The primary way we’ve been organizing is through our Facebook group, which now has close to 500 members. It is an open forum for expats who are either currently involved with charity organizations or are volunteers looking for ways to contribute. One thing I’ve noticed (and which inspired me to create the expats give back initiative in the first place) is that many in the expat community have their hearts in the right place and want to help out, but they have trouble with how to go about finding information on ways to help, particularly if they don’t speak Spanish. The Facebook group has helped close this gap somewhat, as most questions or requests for volunteers get at least one solid, helpful response. However, we could still definitely grow, so I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in helping the community, whether you have a current project you would like to promote or are looking for ones to get involved with, to join us in the group. I would like to see us add 250 more members by the end of 2016.
Until now, the group does not organize many events that are directly sponsored by the group. However, this year, we have held two fundraisers at the TRYP hotel to raise funds for the Hogar Rosa Virginia women’s shelter. Together, these 2 events raised over 2000 dollars to help very young mothers and their children. I will continue to organize occasional fundraisers, and we may organize more direct events in the future if there is the manpower for us to have enough volunteers for “expats give back” volunteer events.
I am always looking for new ideas and new ways that we can help the people of Panama. If you have any ideas you would like to discuss with me about things we can do with Expats Give back, please feel free to contact me through the contact page on this site, or in the Facebook forum. I hope you all will join me in this mission.