Ann Putnam Marks and Karen Turney work in the development department at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. On Sunday, March 14, they leave for a four-day field trip with donors to visit UNICEF programs in Panama.
The countdown to Panama has begun. We are finalizing our plans and look forward to sharing what we learn about UNICEF’s lifesaving programs in FieldNotes.
Located at the southern tip of Central America, Panama is a country of contrasts: Caribbean and Pacific, jungle and beach, wealth and poverty. The wealthiest 20 percent of Panama’s population have an income 32 times higher than the poorest 20 percent, and indigenous and afro-descendant peoples are much more likely to live below the poverty line. During these four days, we’ll have the chance to visit UNICEF programs for children in both urban and rural communities.
We’ll spend our first two days in rural Chiriqui, a rural province with a large indigenous population. There we will visit UNICEF-supported programs to help alleviate poverty, build sustainability, and give children the best start in life. Among the programs we plan to see are a center that works to prevent child labor, a locally-run preschool that provides the youngest children with nutrition and education, and a community-built and managed aqueduct.
The final two days will be spent in the urban areas of Panama City. And while we expect the contrast between the two areas to be stark, it is clear that these children too have great needs”and opportunity. We are very excited to visit a community center that works with underprivileged children to prevent violence through sports, culture and education. Our final stop will be at Panama’s leading NGO on the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
As we start to pack and review the itinerary, we are reminded that we’ve never had to worry about clean water to drink, nutritious food to eat, lack of basic medicine, or a safe home. As we talk with the children and families we’ll soon meet, we look forward to seeing in them the hope and progress of a brighter, safer and healthier future that UNICEF, and its many generous donors, make possible.