2,404 miles from Hingham, MA, I made everlasting memories that altered my perspective on the term community. In March 2022, I partnered with School the World to finish building a school in Panama. While I was there, I realized that my community was no longer restricted to the familiar faces I see in my school hallways, at sports practice, or around Hingham.
I was excited for the new experiences on this service project as it was my first time out of the country! I was greeted with learning about the highly respected Nove culture of Nueva Estrella, the community I worked in in Panama.
On the second day, the group I traveled with from Boston was assigned to paint a mural on one of the classroom walls. After sketching a draft of the mural on a piece of paper, which depicted a girl reading a book under a tree, we replicated the sketch onto the wall. As we were working on the mural throughout the week, more Panamanian children and adults became interested and comfortable with our work. Hearing giggling from behind me one day, I turned around to see a group of children huddled together sharing a box of crayons and coloring in the sketch of the mural. The previous day, we had gotten the opportunity to observe what their classes were like. I knew they had been learning the colors and although I do not know a lot of Spanish, I said “Que color es…?” and pointed to the leaves on the tree. “Verde!” they proudly shouted. “Marrón! Azul! Amarillo!”, continuing to list colors present in the mural.
I could tell how truly excited they were about learning and how important education was to them. It made me grateful for my education opportunities and aware of the school supplies I took for granted.
Because of COVID, many children were unable to attend school for years and their community is working extra hard to expand their knowledge. School the World works towards ensuring that children have equal access to education from the earliest point in their life in order to prepare them for success in their future.
My experience with School the World confirmed for me that I want a future in which I help others because I felt empowered to provide access to educational opportunities the Panamanian children would not otherwise have. But I also realized that the people I visited gave me so much more than I gave them.
I noticed how eager the children were to help anyone around them and I realized how enjoyable working together to create change can be. I had been nervous about being in a foreign country and not knowing anyone in the community, but the children quickly replaced my fears with smiles and hugs.
The mural we painted on the school wall said, “A Child Without Education Is Like a Bird Without Wings.” I know that I helped give the children in Panama their wings to soar to success, and they gave me my wings to continue to try to help others.
Learn more about School the World's 2023 Service Trips here or attend one of our info sessions this Fall! Dates below:
9/27 @ 6PM: Lauralton Hall School
10/4 @ 7PM: Needham High School Library
10/5 @ 7PM: Winchester Public Library
10/11 @ 7PM: Hingham High School, Room 131
10/13 @ 7PM: Newton Country Day School