Vacationing to make a lifelong difference: Panamá - My Family Travels

I have always been intrigued by my dad’s homeland. Nestled in between Costa Rica and Colombia, Panamá is a tropical country filled with rainforests, exotic animals, and thousands of Panamanians proud of their country. 

But while Panamá is a culturally rich land, many Panamanian citizens live in severe poverty. 

The injustice of poverty engulfs the country; and affects the public education system. The children suffer in the entangled political system, and they don’t receive a quality education because government monies aren’t spent on education.

In April 2009, when my mom told our family she’d received a grant from a U.S. educational foundation for being an outstanding elementary school principal, we all unanimously decided to use the grant money to take a trip to Panamá. 

Along with our regular luggage, we also packed a little red suitcase with 110 children’s books to donate to a needy Panamanian elementary school. We were determined to help some of the forgotten children.

In June 2009, we boarded a plane and after six hours, we arrived in Panamá.  Upon arriving at our hotel, we asked the staff if they would be able to provide transportation to a local school so we could donate the 110 books my mom had purchased with funds from the grant. The hotel staff informed us there was an elementary school about 10-15 minutes away; and we agreed we would donate our books to this particular school. The hotel concierge and another hotel worker familiar with the local area offered to escort us to the school the following morning.

As soon as we arrived at La Escuela de Farallón, we saw a fallen tree in the dirt yard of the school and small children running around the barren school yard before school began. The poorly constructed school, had classrooms without doors and windows without glass panes.  

Within minutes, we located the school principal, and introduced ourselves.  The principal was speechless as we opened the suitcase and showed her the books. Speaking only Spanish, the principal told us the books would be the first set of real story books written in English the school ever had; and the first children’s books many of the children had ever seen before.

Seeing the faces of the children once they saw the books provided me with a priceless memory I’ll never forget…

Once we got back to America, my mom decided she wanted to donate more books. It was then that our family started a non- profit 501 (c) (3) charitable organization called Lifeline Foundation, Inc.   We hosted our first book drive with the intent to collect 1,000 children’s books to donate to needy schools around the world. Needless to say the 10,000 books we collected far exceeded our expectations and our initial goal, and now, we have been able to help schools in America, Panamá, and Africa.

Our goal is to build libraries worldwide in needy areas to help develop literacy, and help kids learn English so they are prepared to compete in today’s society.    

A lifeline of literacy outreaches all started with our missions trip to Panamá… We found tremendous gratification in giving to others who don’t enjoy the same qualities of life we are fortunate enough to enjoy. 

And it was evident we had made a true and lifelong difference in the lives of one group of needy children in Panamá when we saw the beaming faces of the students and heard the “Gracias” offered to our family by each of the 170 students, their teachers, and the principal of La Escuela Farallón in the beautiful country of Panamá…

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