For some months, we´ve been renting a small space in Casco Viejo to an organization called Aprojusan. With such a confusing name, no one knew really what they did, but they where nice people and the lease was arranged. A few days ago we learned that it is basically a mini children´s center where kids from the the area could go after school and work on their homework and receive art classes. Their work is great, it is so simple but yet so important.
We walked into their “office” yesterday, and it was full of kids and color everywhere: their paintings on the wall, they where doing some mobiles hanging from ropes, activity everywhere. We knew at least half of the kids that were there, smiling, having a good time, but more importantly, out of the street.
It was also an important week to get to know Aprojusan (Asociacion pro juventud? they should change their name, who is their marketing genius???). It just happened that Fundacion Calicanto had it´s board of directors renewed a couple of days ago and the meeting with new members was inspiring. The Foundation is now getting itself into a position of being able to handle more projects and involve more Casco Antiguo residents. Old ongoing projects such as the trainning of women in hotel school (Tagua) which has graduated at least 50 girls so far (which are currently working, by the way), or the art lessons for children and the beach cleanings will be kept and hopefully increased.
New projects such as the urban agriculture project are being added. In the meeting there where several things all Casco Antiguo residents agreed on, but the most important point was that Casco Antiguo is probably one of the best places to implement a unique (in Panama) concept of a sustainable neighborhood.
It is already happening, as we can see by the work of Aprojunsa, Fundacion Calicanto, the work some of the churches do in the community and the many individuals who support directly other associations such as the Scouts, some local schools or children. I can tell you, this is highly uncommon in Panama. Usually we tend to scream to the government: hey! you need to fix this! and then turn around into our own day to day doing nothing ourselves. This is the complete opposite. There is something fundamentally powerful when a community comes together and just get things done. Even if the government “jumps in” afterwards, the dynamic is different.
It reminds us that the power still is – despite what others say – in your hands.
Speaking of hands, these are pictures from the art center: