work has been with the children of Altos del Valle and El Valle Abajo. These two small communities, collectively
referred to as Los Valles, are located in the region of Bocas del Toro in Panama.
are members of an indigenous group known as The Ngobe-Bugles. Often referred to as the "poorest of the poor: in
Panama the Ngobe Bugle are compromised
of two separate ethnic-linguistic groups (The Ngobe and the Bugle). They are Panama's most numerous indigenous peoples with a population of about 180,000 Ngobes
and 10,000 Bugles and they inhabit the Ngobe-Bugle Conmarca which is a protected area that operates its own political system
(comparable to a reservation). The majority of the Ngobe-Bugle live in small communities or villages.
of the community live in "chozas" or huts made of straw with dirt floors. They have no access to running water.
They have no access to sanitation. They use the local river as a means to bath, wash, defecate, and drink from. They
have limited sources of food, and the average yearly income is less than $400 US. Education is limited and of
poor quality. There is a small school in the community but the teachers come infrequently. Schooling
stops with the fourth grade, except for those children lucky enough to have the money to bus into the closest town to attend
high school. Illiteracy is high. Teen pregnancy is high. Infant mortality rates are high. And
malnutrition is unbelievably high. 81% of children under the age of 5 suffer from severe malnutrition.
disease are prevalent in Los Valles. There is no medical clinic and no access to health care. Children
are frequently struck with severe parasitic infections and skin diseases.
and socks to the children isn't going to end solve everything for them. But it's a beginning - and it's a preventative
measure to help guard them against some of the environmental risks that they face. Furthermore, it's a sign
to these children - it's someone reaching out from very far away to say "We know you're there and we care". For
them, this is hope.