Wattle and daub is no match for concrete blocks in the windswept mountain community of Piedra de Amolar. Located in a remote region of Panama’s Veraguas province, the rural town recently addressed the need for new classrooms at the local elementary school.
“The conditions of the grade school were absolutely inappropriate for learning,” explains Alfredo Luciana, president of the Kiwanis Club of Metropolitan, Panamá City. “Three classrooms were made of concrete blocks, but four others made of wattle and daub were very wind-damaged. Students, parents, and teachers had a long-held desire to have all classrooms made of concrete blocks.”
Already providing yearly social, medical and educational aid to Piedra de Amolar, the Kiwanians knew that funds for new classrooms would not be forthcoming from the nation’s limited educational budget. Recalling the close relationship between their country and Japan dating back to 1904 when Panama gained independence, one member suggested applying for a grant from a fund set up by Japan to support the region.
“We moved fast,” Alfredo says. “Teams from our club were appointed to handle all the legal, technical and administrative aspects of the project with the Japanese Embassy and the building contractor. We selected a contractor who had previous experience with this type of rural school construction in remote and difficult to reach areas.”
The Kiwanians were able to secure more than US$120,000 to carry out the project, which included an audit statement by an independent firm. Over 600 students ranging in age from five to 12 years benefited from the construction of new concrete block classrooms.
Upon completion of the classrooms, representatives from Panama’s Ministry of Education and the Embassy of Japan joined students and parents to mark the occasion.
“Everyone was happy and thankful for finally seeing their wishes come true,” Alfredo says. “The whole community came together to celebrate the successful conclusion of a much desired wish.” — Nicholas Drake