Every morning (around 8 a.m.) in Casco Viejo, there is a lady who sells home made yogurt door by door. She makes everyone in Arco Properties fight over her delicious goods. So far, she has managed to create a very good, growing business for herself and her family, since she is now “famous” in the government and other offices around.
Between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. the “tamales” and “chicheme” guys pass by. Walking all the way back from Santa Ana and screaming to the top of their lungs… “Tamales!!! Sí hay! Calientitos!!!!” The tamales guy has a wide range of products: tamales a cuara ($0.25) o a peso ($0.50), plain or with hot sauce. You hear people screaming from the balconies: tamales! tamales!. They sell like hot cakes. The chicheme vendor is the same story, sometimes he even passes twice a day.
At night, the legendary “bollo man” walks in. With almost an operatic range scream, the same story repeats itself. Bollo a cuara! Bollooooo!!!!. He is so emblematic I once had the idea of making a CD called “The Sounds of Casco Viejo” and he would be on the first track.
Lunchtime is business time. There is a family that has organized themselves to provide grilled chicken. They are in the corner of Plaza Bolívar, but sometimes they also sell at the corner behind the Cathedral Church. Those guys make serious bucks, the power of an organization. They can cater events, they are a full money making machine.
The stories go on and on… but all of them have something in common: self motivation. A fire within them burning to change their lives, to improve themselves every day.
For all of us “new residents” of Casco Viejo, it is important to take the lead to spread that fire between all the local residents. Our company started last year several programs that have (little by little) started that flame in some. We have a policy of donating 10% of our revenues to an NGO called Calicanto and 5% of our employees time to community work. Last year, this donation was the seed capital to send 20 women of Casco Viejo to Tagua (hotel school), which today are working in different hotels in Panama and would open the doors on the hotels that will soon open in Casco Viejo. It also funded the art school for children at La Casona on Saturdays and even programs with young men providing trainning that enabled them to work in construction or tourism in the Casco. Recently, we donated a year course with the Boy Scouts to 11 kids from the neighborhood.
Our new goal for 2008 is creating a Youth Center where we can channel all these activities more efficiently and the community can join efforts. In our experience, the “self motivation fire” must start by educating and caring for the younger kids and their mothers. It takes so little, and the benefits are long lasting. If you are reading this blog and would like to join us, please don´t hesitate to write back at: [email protected]