A few months ago, the Peace Corps Panama office asked me to write an introductory letter to be given to incoming volunteers, and since reading the letters in my own Welcome Book was one of the first impressions I had of Peace Corps Panama, I was excited to share (briefly!) some of the things I've learned.
Hello and welcome to Peace Corps Panama! We are all very excited for you to begin this incredible, challenging, fulfilling, and fun adventure.
My name is Abby Bryant, and I am a Group 73 Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) Volunteer in a rural indigenous village in Bocas del Toro. Though I am part of the agriculture program, I arrived to Panama with very little technical knowledge. I was concerned that my business background would not be sufficient, but the SAS program has been incredibly supportive in providing me with the tools and training I needed to succeed as a volunteer.
In addition to serving as a National Coordinator for Agribusiness, I keep myself busy with a variety of projects in my community. Depending on the day, I may be facilitating a business training, working on a cacao farm, teaching a women’s group how to bake, or hanging out in my house with a bunch of kids and my dog. One of my favorite parts of being a Peace Corps volunteer is the freedom and flexibility we have in directing our work. Though this unique responsibility may at times seem a little daunting, try to take a breath and savor the moment instead of focusing on having just the right experience or always knowing the answers.
Before joining the Peace Corps, I thought I would feel most accomplished after a successful seminar or business development training. However, that was before a neighboring family started referring to me as Tia so that I would feel a part of their family; It was before kids fought over who would be first to show me their new, improved grades, and it was most certainly before my community members, one-by-one, arrived at my little hut to welcome me and tell me that they had prayed for my safe arrival.
I cannot tell you what your site will be like, what you’ll do each day, or even what type of relationship you will have with your future community members. What I can tell you is this: every challenge and hardship will be worth it and your experience will be unique to you.
Congratulations and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Quebrada Pita, Bocas del Toro