GPA Learns the Joy of Serving in Panama City

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FFWPU USA: Renovating a playground to give local children a safe alternative to playing in the streets is just one of the service projects that about 25 volunteers from Generation Peace Academy (GPA) are assisting during three weeks in Casco Viejo, Panama.

So far the crew has cleaned the playground lot, scraped its walls, painted a base layer, and begun work designing a mural. The designers are GPA first-year participants Aika Callahan, Ben Caron, Junta Naito, Yuka Oiwa, Mansoo Takeda, and Amy Whitmore.

Mansoo described their vision: “It begins with a school of fish swimming through the ocean, until they begin to transform into birds who spread their wings and take flight, until they eventually surround a painting of the globe with the words ‘Forgive, Love, and Unite.’”

GPA is partnering in Panama City with Amigos y Vecinos de Casco Antiguo (translated as “Friends and Neighbors of Old Casco”; abbreviated as AVACA), a nonprofit organization that works in the poorer communities of Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City. Last year GPA worked with AVACA to establish a volunteer-run recycling campaign.

The playground renovation will complement AVACA’s beautification and community building efforts throughout the city. This playground will serve as a model for other neighborhoods.

Children from the neighborhood have joined the GPA volunteers in the playground renovation every day, assisting in some external tasks while brightening the workday. Their energy is contagious and they also seem to find hope through GPA’s presence.

First-year GPA participant Gabby Hochmuth said: “The kids don’t have a lot in their lives, but they are so willing to give. We all recognize how much there is to gain from the pure hearts of children.”

GPA also spent a morning cleaning up the local streets surrounding the playground site. Local children were assigned as cleanup leaders, in order to educate others and encourage future street cleanliness. The neighborhood residents were so grateful that they brought the group refreshments. Read More

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