We have had the honour to visit the comarca (Native reserves) Ngobi-Bugle with a group from the foundation that is supporting us here and that works in the comarca supporting local projects there. Today we drove up into the mountains to Hato Chami and then hiked up to a small school where we met a group of natives who are setting up sewing coops to make their own clothes and also to attempt a small business of making and selling clothing to other groups. It was fascinating to watch the negotiations as new Singer sewing machines ( manual of course as there is no electricity in these remote areas) were collected by two groups of people who will then share the machines according to their needs. Some men and women hiked for a few hours to meet with the others and talk about their work. One group then left with the machines on their backs to hike back to their homes. We passed children who hike about 2 hours to get to school everyday and then back to home. The road is very rough, in fact a team of men was sent out to clear an area that had been blocked by huge rocks so that one of our vehicles could pass. 4 of us walked from the local school to the next village as only one car could pass. It was a long hot walk over very rocky terrain, needless to say we were very glad to arrive at our destination. The children were very curious about us.
Coming back we stopped at el Centro de Salud where staff at a small hospital sees people daily and also have a birthing centre. Most women here give birth at home, having children starting at a very young age, from about 12-15 years old. There is a very high child mortality rate here, and many of the children where we are volunteering come from remote areas such as this where the malnutrition rate is very high.
We met a group of women on Friday that are involved in setting up local efforts to protect their natural resources, developing an ecotourism centre, and training as well local women to assist with the births in the villages. All of this is supported by Fundacion Nicole Lepage, the group of Panamanians that is working with these indigenous groups. We are truly privileged to have been witness to this process for 2 days.