For the past several years Global Brigades Panama has centralized its efforts in Eastern Panama, in the Panama Este and Darien Provinces. Now, with rapidly increasing student numbers and highly experienced staff, we are excited to announce that we will not only continue working in our current communities, but also expand and establish relationships in West Panama, in the Coclé Province.
In January 2014, the Medical/Dental and Public Health Pilot Programs will complete their first brigades in West Panama. This expansion gives GB Panama the opportunity to host more brigades throughout the year, since we will have more partner communities and more space to house students. Although we will begin the expansion with our Medical/Dental Brigades, we plan to implement our other health and sustainable development programs gradually, as well. Initially implementing Medical/Dental Brigades gives our Research/Evaluation team the opportunity to work closely with these communities to determine which projects and strategies would be most successful through our other programs.
The new communities are predominately Latino in ethnicity, and most members make a living through agriculture, cattle ranching, and craft making. The main challenges facing our Western Panama communities are deforestation, low-quality sanitation systems, and health care availability. Although many communities do have access to local health centers, they often are extremely understaffed, and lack sufficient medications to provide adequate care.
We are looking forward to partnering with communities in Western Panama. Through this expansion we will be able to empower and work side-by-side with more communities, and make a larger impact overall.