A group of residents and students from Western North Carolina will embark in Early March of 2012 on a trip to the Central American country of Panama, donating ten days of their lives. While in Panama they will do renovation work, provide medical assistance and distribute needed supplies to remote rural schools and clinics.
“I am happy to be a part of a group that is diverse in age, background, and beliefs, and in a very short time provide some meaningful changes in the lives of people less fortunate than ourselves,” said Charles Wolfe, a State Farm agent in Sylva. Wolfe is a member of the Sylva Rotary Club and previous team member in 2008. The Project Panama team includes residents from both Macon and Jackson counties. Some are students from high school and college, while others are retired or working in the community.
The participants must meet once a week for six weeks prior to the trip. Team members get a crash course in Spanish and the history, culture, and geography of Panama. Each night a group of volunteers from the team makes a traditional Panamanian meal to be shared with other team members. Students at Southwestern Community College and High School students “dual enrolled” will earn three elective credits from SCC for their participation in this project.
Project Panama, which began in the winter of 2004, has blossomed into a service learning project that encompasses people from many different backgrounds and levels of experience. The first trip to Panama was a small operation organized by members of the Sylva Rotary Club, the Smoky Mountain High School Interact Club, and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Cullowhee.
Together these organizations were able to collect more than 800 pounds of school supplies and $400 in cash. The cash and supplies were delivered to the Boquete Rotary Club in March 2005. Subsequent journeys in 2006 and 2008 with teams of 25 and 32 members provided nearly 2,000 pounds of medical and school supplies, $12,800 in donated funds, and more than 2,600 hours of labor. Additional funds and supplies have been provided in subsequent years.
The spring trip is a joint undertaking of the Rotary Club of Franklin, Sylva Rotary Club, Club Rotario de Boquete in Panama, Franklin and Smoky Mountain High School Interact Clubs, and Southwestern Community College. While in Panama the team will visit historic sites, immerse themselves in the customs and culture of this Central American country, and work on several projects in rural schools and medical clinics. The group is currently seeking additional team members and gathering supplies and donations from friends, family members, coworkers and community businesses.
“We are very excited about participating in this project and feel that it is a great opportunity to serve others who need it,” said Katy Huscusson, a math teacher and sponsor of the Franklin High School Interact Club.
For more information contact Franklin Rotary member Sandy Frazier at (828)369-1600 or email him at sandliz222@ frontier.com.