Helping Lives in Panama


A little boy in front of his village home.


A little boy in front of his village home.

Over this past spring break, a team 19 individuals, (including myself), led by James Burke and Christina Rodriguez took part in a mission trip to Panama in order to do some volunteer work. While there, the team was assigned to be painting a large dorm hall and meeting building, visiting a Ngobe-Bugle coffee bean settlement, and lastly as well as the most emotional, to go to two orphanages. The team was involved with an organization called YWAM (Youth With a Mission) which is based all around the world. Their goal of giving compassion to those in need is strongly found in Panama.

We travelled a solid five hours on a plane from Chicago O’Hare to Panama City. Here, we were sent to the Panama City YWAM base. As we stayed in the Panama City base for one night, we were accompanied by a Brazilian team who were travelling to Haiti on a similar mission. Of course, we were bunking with them that night and tried exchanging jokes. However, they spoke Portugese, not Spanish nor English, so that failed.

The next day, we took a seven hour bus ride to the Chiriqui side of Panama. We accompanied another YWAM base in the town of Baja Boquete and stayed there for the bulk of the trip. That following Monday, we were assigned with the task of painting a large dorm hall and meeting settlement for YWAM and various orphans. With the hot sun beating down on us, this laborious task was both fun and tough to most of the team.  During the following days, we were met with a similar task of painting the inside of the same building as well as visiting two orphanages.

The orphanage trips may have been the most emotional considering that we spent time with such sweet children. They’ve been through a lot, and knowing that they have either been abandoned or taken away from their parents is truly something that touched all of our hearts. During the first orphanage trip, we played soccer with some of the older boys and spent time talking to them and making them laugh. Laughing, of course, is a very fulfilling thing to achieve with these kids. We were shown how sugar cane is processed as well as the farm that the orphanage uses to feed the children. We ended the day with much compassion in our minds.

During the second orphanage trip, it truly hit us on a deeper emotional level. The second orphanage was built for kids who were of younger age. Roughly 1-12 years old, they all looked like children who need someone to be of a brotherly, sisterly, or even motherly and fatherly figures to them. The team split up and either played soccer with the boys or played inside with the toddlers. We chose captains for the soccer teams and played a game. Once the game was over, a couple of us gave some hats to the boys. It’s real special to them for other people to come and spend time with them. Seeing their faces light up when we arrived was truly genuine, especially when they get no genuine love and attention, they truly feel as if it is important in their hearts.

Our last experience during the Panama Mission Trip, was to venture to the Ngobe-Bugle coffee bean settlement. Here, the indians cultivate the coffee beans. Then market them to the nearest city known as Boquete. As the team explored the small village, we noticed the poor conditions that they live in. However, it is their culture as they move to other locations every 3 months. The people in the village seemed very happy and friendly although it is their culture not to show emotion. They dress very traditionally with colorful dresses that the women wear. The men however, dress casually as they work in the coffee fields all day.

Overall, I thought the mission trip was very enlightening. It was a great experience with wonderful friends, seeing wonderful things, and being around very down-to-earth and spiritual people. Additionally, it opened some new thoughts in our minds that we haven’t sat down and thought about before. Including being much more thoughtful of how people live in third world countries. As well as understanding how people can live in lower-quality lives, but still be as happy as can be.

The Team:

Adults: James Burke, Christina Rodriguez, Rob Rodriguez, Raul Salazar, and Sarah Howell.

Youth: Matthew Salazar, Trey Schuler, Dominic Rodriguez, Amelia Rodriguez, Sophia Rodriguez, Jack Fischer, Elene Burke, Emily Burke, Elise Beer, Jaycie Beer, Jayden Krogman, Hannah Madsen, Alice Tosi, and Nicole Rizer.