kids

In This Period Of Global Uncertainty, One Volunteer Steps Up To Support Local Children In Panama

by Stephanie Kaloi

The health crisis has changed life for a lot of people around the world. While so many of us are facing so many uncertainties about our job security, our health, and the economic situation, it’s been really amazing to hear stories about how individuals and organizations are stepping up to support their communities.

One such individual is Victor Peretz, the founder of two organizations in Panama: Local in PTY and Local in PTY Kids.

Prior to the health crisis, Victor’s organization served the children who live in El Chorrillo, which he describes as an “underdeveloped poverty-stricken neighborhood with a low-level of education.” The neighborhood is in the capital, Panama City. After founding the organization in August 2017, Victor set about building a program that would give the children access to education materials and more.

The virus was slow to wind its way through Panama, with the first case reported on March 9, 2020. The country immediately entered into a total lockdown and experienced several weeks with a relatively slow rise in cases. Now the capital city is battling a huge surge in cases. The lockdown has been lifted for most of the country, but people who live in Panama City are still only allowed to be outside two hours a day based on one’s gender. Men get their two hours one day, and women the next.

With such strict rules, it’s been difficult for many families to work, meaning they can’t provide for their families. That’s where Victor’s organization steps in.

First things first: Local in PTY Kids has a whole team of volunteers who are doing their part to improve the lives of the children they serve. “We use different educational activities like math, arts, game cards, yoga, and meditation. We are very flexible and each volunteer has their skills to teach and spend time with our children.”

Once you understand how the organization works, it begins to make a lot of sense. Volunteers are able to directly teach children different skills, or use their skills to network with others who can provide support for the children and their families. This can mean educational support, donations, and more.

While people of all ages are suffering right now, children are always particularly vulnerable. The global health crisis definitely exacerbates this reality. El Chorrillo is a corregimiento, or a kind of neighborhood, within the city limits. Right now in Panama City, children can’t visit with their friends or their family members, and they can’t even go outside that often. This also means that their parents and family members can’t always go to work and that many people are struggling to make ends meet.

“We all know that we are facing bad times and the most vulnerable are our children. Lockdown is having our children with no opportunity to interact with other children and they don’t have access to our facilities. We always find a way to keep them busy through our special kits which has two t-shirts, colored pencils, one coloring book, and one puzzle. And a care package with essential for each family.”

The organization delivers the care packages every 15 days. Each care package contains enough supplies to last for another two weeks. Supplies include games and activities for children and essentials that might be hard to get otherwise, like fresh vegetables and fruit.

Getting the resources to fund the care packages is an ongoing challenge, and the organization has amassed a variety of methods for doing so. One of the easiest is by accepting donations through GoFundMe. The organization has currently received donations of approximately $10,000 and has a goal of $15,000.

Panama is a beautiful country, but it’s a country like any other, and there are definitely many ways life can be lived. Victor explains, “We are so lucky that we live in this small country, but unfortunately, Panama is like other countries with inequality and poverty. We have the famous Panama Canal, but those children need to believe that there are some people who are supporting them and believe in the goodness of people. I encourage others to support this work and we can make a huge difference in the lives of many children not only here, the whole world.”

Prior to starting his organizations, Victor worked in the hotel industry in Panama for eight years. He is happy to now be working in a field that supports the country he loves so much.

“As a native Panamanian, I think is the perfect time to give back what life showed me. As a local tour guide, I have met many people from all over the world and shared ideas with them and I think I can use and share my knowledge and experience with our new generation.”

There are numerous ways to support the work that Victor and his team of volunteers are performing in Panama. The easiest way is to donate financially, as the money is used to continue to put together and deliver care packages. If you have the means, you can donate to the organization’s GoFundMe right here.