Another glorious week of painting. The Dawdi House painting has reached maturity and is now ready to step out into the world. The message of family contained in this image has been a joy to bring into being.
It is in the heartland of our great country that the strength of family is at its strongest and to be able to recognize this value is to put my talent to good purpose. I have enjoyed sharing with you the painting's weekly progress.
Last week I said I would tell you about the program we started more than five years ago to bring the teaching of English to the elementary schools on these islands. At that time only one elementary school had an English teacher, the one on the main island.
The P. Buckley Moss Society has been funding a major part of the program with an annual donation of $9,000. Malcolm and I, along with some of our friends, have provided additional funding and material support at this end. I want all members of the P. Buckley Moss Society to be aware of the good resulting from their generosity.
Virginia Vasquez and Natasha Mcfarlane are our lead teachers. They are supported by Gringo volunteers, principally Joan Burgman and Arlene Yaconelli. The program is highly successful. When our students go onto high school, they excel in English and also have above average motivation to learn.
We began the program on Isla Carenero where we lived at the time. Besides the English classes, we made a point to keep asking the children what they wanted to be when they became adults. At the start, most boys told us they looked forward to spending their days fishing. The girls said they wanted to marry and have babies. With less fish each year in the lagoons, the feeding of large families is increasingly difficult and neither of these choices promised a bright future.
We told the children that if they give their best to school, do their homework each day and stay free from drugs and alcohol, they should be able to find work that would earn them steady money and bring them security.
At a recent graduation from the Carenero Elementary, the aspirations of the students included a lawyer, a veterinarian (a young girl whose family was our neighbor), several teachers (wanting to follow the example of Virginia and Natasha), an airline pilot, a couple of accountants, a carpenter, and an executive in the tourist industry.
The children know it is a long haul towards the objective of their dreams and that not all dreams will come true but they also understand that through education their choices for future work will be widely expanded.
A measure of our success is that parents from other islands send their children to live with relatives on the three islands where our program is operating and recently we had two Gringo families inquiring if there was any way their children could attend.
The program has been visited by national and provincial education directors and Virginia has been asked to train teachers on other islands. Last year the national government passed a law making English the official second language and mandating that every school is to have an English teacher. We do not claim that our program was the genesis of the this law. In the age of the Internet, the need for all children to grow up learning English is obvious.
There is so much more Malcolm and I could tell you about this program but this is not the time or place to do so. Just please know that those of you who are members of the Society are vicariously contributing to a brighter future for some wonderful children who have intelligent eager brains that will better the future of their communities and of this country.
One last word. Two computers and an Internet link provided by the Society are the local high school's only connection to the World Wide Web. The computers are in constant use.
Bahia Honda Elementary School:
It was a joy to be there. The children were one hundred percent attentive, the school immaculately clean, and the full time teachers dedicated, caring and most appreciative of the visits from Virginia and Natasha.
It was heartening to see these bright-eyed kids learn so fast with their young brains absorbing at a rate that made me envious and wish that I had learned Spanish when I was their age. I am including photos to give you an idea of this typical two-roomed school. Note the school uniforms! It amazes me that from native huts without electricity these children come to school in clean white shirts. There is much to be said in favor of school uniforms.
The Art Show:
I am showing a photo of the work Malcolm and I chose for our house. The white dresses with the wide collars are traditional Spanish "polleras" once worn in the cities of Panama and Colon that stand at either end of the Panama Canal. When the canal and the railway that link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were being constructed, Africans formed a part of the labor force. These Africans became absorbed into the Spanish culture of that area.
Twenty or so years later a second influx of African people came from the Caribbean Islands to work on the newly founded banana plantations in this area of Bocas del Toro. They brought with them their Afro Antillean culture with their dresses of vivid colors.
Besides the interesting reference to the cultures what we particularly liked about Enrique's work is that he is sincerely doing his own thing and not following in the style of others.
Hasta luego (until then).