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San Miguel: What’s the Big Picture?

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July 19, 2011

by Mimi Powell
Posted In: The Creation of a Culture, Voices of Kalu Yala

Hey all you Kalu Yala Fans and Friends,

Education Program Director Mimi Powell

Education Program Director Mimi Powell

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the blogging loop, but I’m jumping back in the ring to let the world know what amazing achievements we’ve made this summer and to give a brief overview of what more is to come.  I hope everyone has been able to follow the SMOT and Education interns to get glimpses our work. This blog is to help you get the “Big Picture” of our work in San Miguel.

To do that, I think it’s important that we start at the beginning: where do we work?

SAN MIGUEL – A Gorgeous Rural Town About an Hour and a Half from Panama City

Where SMOT Works

Where SMOT Works

A Brief History of Kalu Yala’s Work in San Miguel

The Founding San Miguel Outreach Team

The Founding San Miguel Outreach Team

How did members of the Kalu Yala crew end up doing social work in San Miguel? As you hopefully already know, Kalu Yala is dedicated to working towards sustainability not just environmentally, but also financially and socially.  To us here at Kalu Yala, social sustainability is linked to responsibly collaborating with our neighbors through the progress and growth of the Kalu Yala village.  Back in January of 2011, Kalu Yala began its first organized efforts working with the town – San Miguel – that is the closest neighbor to where the Kalu Yala village will be built in the future.  The “San Miguel Outreach Team,” also known as SMOT, became the branch of the Kalu Yala Internship Program tasked with establishing the first relationships between Kalu Yala and the town of San Miguel.

As SMOT creators Virginia Campo and Sebastian Arias wrote in their original business proposal, the mission of SMOT is to “Create sustainable relationships with the San Miguel community by involving them in a series of projects that are going build their trust, identify their needs and leaders and inform them of Kalu Yala´s mission.”  With a strong vision in mind, Virginia and Sebastian were joined by Emily Barry, Evan Conaway, Steven Reed, and myself, Mimi Powell.  Together, SMOT took its first steps towards building a mutually beneficial relationship between Kalu Yala and its neighboring Panamanian communities.

There are several past blogs written about SMOT’s creation and beginnings.  I’ve linked a few choice blogs below.

So where does that leave us now?

The San Miguel Outreach Team

The San Miguel Outreach Team

On May 22nd, Kalu Yala was joined by thirty-eight, yes THIRTY-EIGHT, fresh-faces who came down to Panama ready and willing to join our cause.  The San Miguel leaders, Sebastian Arias and myself, were lucky enough to have fourteen of those individuals join the San Miguel Outreach Team.  Nine of those individuals were to begin dedicating themselves to researching and creating new projects to empower and learn about the community of San Miguel.  The other five new interns would focus on continuing the English courses that began in the Spring of 2011, while also creating new projects to enrich the educational resources in San Miguel.  In the short month and a half, we have managed to start and to improve a ton of projects.  We have built a community garden at the local public school, started a soccer league, and established a Youth Leadership group.  We’ve started repairing the fifteen laptops that the school has – the only technological innovation available for the students who attend the school.  We’ve had community cookouts and soccer games.  Most importantly, we are building relationships and institutions that will ensure a positive future for both Kalu Yala and San Miguel.

I’ll finish this update with a series of links and description for each members’ project in San Miguel.  Stay tuned for more good news from the San Miguel crew!

Education Intern Lily Giving a Student a Hand Up in English Class

Education Intern Lily Giving a Student a Hand Up in English Class

The Education Team

Lily Binner works with the youngest learners of San Miguel teaching English twice a week.  She has also created a soccer league for the elementary school that has an over 50% percent participation rate from the entire student body.  Ian Cohen has taken on the task of bringing modern technology to the otherwise isolated town of San Miguel.  He will be repairing the seventeen computers that the school uses to teach its eighty-five students.  Also, he is creating a manual that can be given to future interns or the school teachers to begin teaching computer literacy to the students. Shannon Hanby partners with Lily in teaching the youngest learners of San Miguel. She is also using her academic background in Public Health to create a weekly course on Nutrition and Environmental stewardship. Celia Daly teaches English to the older children at the elementary school as well as the adult course.  Soon, she will be offering a Financial Literacy course to the adults in the community. Lizzy Bowen is getting creative.  She’s giving a Youth Leadership course through teaching English to the teenagers of San Miguel.

SMOT Intern Lindsay Working with a Young San Miguel Resident

SMOT Intern Lindsay Working with a Young San Miguel Resident

The Outreach Team

Anne Powell is working on creating the “Es Mi San Miguel” book, which will be a living testament of the community of San Miguel and SMOT’s work. Mary Anne Turrentine is building TWO gardens – one at Casa Llena and one at the San Miguel School – that are the first steps toward creating Kalu Yala’s organic agricultural systems.  She will be using two methods of gardening – one conventional and one called Permaculture, which is featured in this blog.  Tessa Harmon is researching religion in San Miguel.  Here is a video she made of what she has learned so far. Miller Tracy is working to write, direct, and produce a documentary about the challenges facing the country’s only health clinic, which happens to be located in San Miguel.  Veronika Jemelikova is researching the history of the founding families of San Miguel. Lindsay Weiman is working to create a recycling system in San Miguel as well as to educate the community about the benefits of recycling.  Joey Coomes has created a Dental Health campaign for the youth of San Miguel.  Katy Van Marter is undertaking the ambitious task of researching local businesses and the feasibility of establishing a pharmacy in the San Miguel health clinic. Nikki Oderstal is our newest intern who will be joining Anne Powell in documenting and critically reviewing SMOT’s efforts.

2 Responses to “San Miguel: What’s the Big Picture?”

  1. Abby Petty says:

    Mimi love! I can’t believe your skirt matches the color of your house!!!!! You look so happy! I think you are doing what you love – even tho you’re suffocating in the jungle! Yikes! Your blog and the links are so informative – I loved reading all of it. what a great job you all are doing. I just have one question, who will be doing the actual building of the village? I know you all do all the prep work but I was wondering about the construction aspect. Anyway, thanks for the info – I loved it and I love YOU!!!!!!!! Bans

  2. Great job. I love reading about your progress and long term thinking. This is going to be huge.