Jackie in Panama

Jackie Wald has served as a lecturer in Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in SMU’s Dedman College. She and her husband, Michael, have volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps in Panama for 27 months. Their assignment is to update the English Program at the Escuela Normal, which is Panama’s premier teacher training school.

Read more from Jackie in Panama

A Peace Corps goal: sustainability

I am glad I sleep with a mosquito net. In the morning there are various flying creatures that have lodged in the netting. That means they have not found their way inside to bite me. That is not the only threat to attack from critters. My husband reached for his towel one day and startled a scorpion, which had nestled inside the folds. Yes, he got stung. Not fatal but really painful. I am scared of those things.

I referred to sustainable development in my last blog. That is definitely the big buzz word in Peace Corps. The purpose is to engage in projects that outlive our presence in a site. If we are able to build an aqueduct so that a community has fresh water rather than relying on a river for cleaning, bathing and drinking. If we can research, fund-raise and build a secador, or dryer, for coffee beans, that means that the harvest won’t have to be shipped to another location for processing and more local jobs will be available. Peace Corps encourages indigenous tribes to promote their culture as sustainable tourism. If they perform traditional dances, prepare native dishes and sell their beautiful woven baskets, jewelry and crafts, they will branch out from fishing and raising crops and increase their income. This can lift them out of poverty.

So, what is MY sustainable development. I don’t know how to build water systems or dryers. I can’t advise in small business startups. What I do know is teaching language. At the end of my training period I will work in a teachers college to develop strategies and curricula that will increase effectiveness in the classroom. From my observation so far, there is no methodology. Teachers write vocabulary words on the board. Students pronounce them and write them in their notebooks. They could use some interactive techniques. It will take every effort of my experience over the last 30 plus years to organize a training program for English teaching. A daunting task, but I can’t wait to get started.

A huge advantage to completing training and starting our jobs is being able to live on our own again. My husband and I are cramped into one little room in the host family’s house. The chicks, ducks, geese, turkeys, dogs, parrots and scorpions keep us company. We don’t know if we’ll have a house or apartment yet, but stay tuned.

Another quote that aptly sums up the Peace Corps experience…

Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.
But with the best of leaders, when the work is done, the task completed, the people will say, “We have done it ourselves.”

- Lao Tsu, 700 BC

I wish you all a rewarding summer! Next time I will try to include some pictures and elaborate on more sights of Panama. Chao!

Share this story:

    About Sarah Hanan

    EA-PubAffairs(Periodicals)
    This entry was posted in Jackie in Panama. Bookmark the permalink.

    One Response to A Peace Corps goal: sustainability

    1. Maureen Brenner says:

      I just love your writing style. Both postings have been entertaining and educational.

      Maureen

    Comments are closed.