Details & Itinerary
This one-of-a-kind program offers it all. Engage with the indigenous and colorful people of the Kuna Yala while staying on an island in paradise. Take your language skills to another level and join a family through homestays. Make a difference through educational service projects that work with local children. Then, when the work is done, swim in the Pacific, tube down a river in the highlands, swim in the turquoise waters of Kuna Yala, and tour the 17th-century ruins of Casco Viejo. Wow!
Upon arriving to Panama City, we settle into the cozy, private Bed and Breakfast that serves as our base for the first portion of the trip. Here we hold orientation, sharpen our Spanish language skills, and get to know each other. One full day is dedicated to touring Casco Viejo and visiting the engineering marvel, the Panama Canal and Miraflores locks.
Veraguas Province, in the northern region of Panama, is a mountainous paradise known for its ideal climate, small and friendly agricultural communities, and spectacular scenery and wildlife. For the next week, we have the opportunity to live, work, and play with the exceptionally hospitable people of this community. The members of the host families do not speak English, so our Spanish language learning curve rises quickly! During the day, we work alongside our host brothers and sisters on community development projects that are determined and coordinated with a local committee prior to the trip. Previous community projects include: building a foundation for classrooms, constructing a lunchroom for the school, teaching English at the primary school, and painting a school classroom. In the afternoons, we play soccer or basketball games and spend time with children. Evenings include cultural activities (such as dances or cooking classes) and games with our host community. Please see The Homestay Experience for more information on how we select our homestay communities and families!
An early morning jeep transfer picks us up and transports us a couple of hours drive to the Kuna Yala Islands. The Kuna people have autonomously governed the islands since the 1920’s and have maintained their distinctive dress, music, dance, and legends. While staying on a rustic and gorgeous private island, our group spends the next several days engaged in educational service projects with an elementary school on Carti Island. Previous projects have included: constructing a library, painting classrooms, and designing a mural. We attend a Kuna tribal council meeting, compete in dug-out canoe races, and attend workshops on traditional cooking, mola weaving, and dancing.
An island-hopping boat excursion as well as time to enjoy the tropical scenery and beaches makes this a not-to-be-missed destination. We leave the community of the Kuna Yala Islands feeling a connection with the people and the spectacular landscape surrounding them.
Departing is sad, but the final trip back to our Bed and Breakfast in Panama City allows us to share our memories before we fly home. A celebratory dinner and awards ceremony at a lively restaurant allows us to reflect upon our past three weeks together. The Panamanian friends we have made have enriched our lives!
The Global Works chaperoned Group Flight departs from Houston (IAH) for this program. Airfare is not included the tuition. Please visit Dates & Tuition for group flight costs and Flight & Travel Arrangements for more information about travel days.
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Adventure & Cultural Activities
We stay in a restored colonial home located near the Canal Zone in the suburb of Balboa. The hotel is equipped with rooms shared by 2-4 students, air-conditioning, and private bathrooms. A large outdoor common area decked out with hammocks and a covered patio provide ample space for ice-breakers and orientation activities.
VERAGUAS PROVINCE HOMESTAYS
The rural communities that host our Global Works groups are located in the Veraguas Province, in the western mountainous interior of Panama. The towns commonly have 20-25 families, a community center, and a small store. All homes where students are housed are within walking distance of one another and close to the project work site. Homes are humble in nature, typically constructed of concrete blocks and are clean and inviting. Students will have a private room within the home and the room is shared between two Global Works students. All homes have bathrooms complete with a flush toilet and a shower. Meals are prepared by the homestay families and families are trained in proper food preparation and food handling.
Global Works participants stay on a private island surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean and the colorful and rich culture of the indigenous Kuna Yala. Accommodations are rustic reed bungalows outfitted with bunk beds and hammocks. Bathrooms are shared and both flush toilets and showers are available.