Sewing machines and Ngobe children above Hato Chami, Panama
Ngobe families arrived at this community centre next to the local school, to pick up their Singer sewing machines and cloth they had ordered in order to sew the clothes they wear and that they can sell to others. They were able to pay for the cloth with money earned from sales of their goods. The machines are provided by the fundacion Nicole Lepage. Groups have formed as cooperatives in this area. The Ngobe women and children throughout this area, including in the cities outside the Comarca, wear their native dress with pride. The men and women are both learning new sewing techniques that allow them to use these manual machines rather than sew by hand as they have done for centuries. We passed houses where the machines were outside and were being used as we drove by.
These children were returning home after their classes. They sometimes walk for hours to and from school. The teachers here come in mostly from outside the Comarca although there are more and more Ngobe teachers being trained. The teachers usually live in or nearby the school, and given the difficulty of accessing the remote areas, stay for weeks on end before they return home for a few days off. In the rainy season the roads become muddy floods with treacherous driving and walking itself is at times difficult. Many people travel on horseback. The teacher in the school we visited had solar panels oustide the school so she could enjoy some form of electricity. Her room was a curtained-off area in the classroom.
A home in the Comarca near Hato Chami. The fences are dotted with clothes drying. The families wash their clothes in rivers nearby.