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Welcome to Peace Corps Panama
Snapshot of Panama
In spite of fast economic growth over recent years, the poverty levels in Panama are much higher than in other countries with similar income levels in Latin America. According to the World Bank, more than a third of the Panamanians live in poverty and close to 15% in extreme poverty (less than $1/day). Statistics demonstrate that Panama is alleviating poverty at a much slower rate than other countries in Latin America. Also, close to one in five children present sub-normal growth with respect to their age (chronic malnutrition). Among the indigenous populations, 61% of the children under five suffer from a sub-normal growth. These social indexes reflect large gaps in the access to basic services and economic opportunities in detriment to the low income, rural, and particularly indigenous populations. Even though the coverage of basic services has significantly extended in recent years, not all Panamanians have access to services and particularly, quality services.
According to the UNDP, the state of education and employment further illustrates this bleak situation. While there are 88 institutions of higher education in the Republic of Panama, only 2 percent of the poor, and virtually no one living in extreme poverty had access to higher education near the turn of the century. Unemployment figures mirror those of GDP, boasting a very low 5.6 percent, and contrasting the reality of rural and indigenous Panama where a significant lack of employment, under-employment, and income generating opportunities are the norm.
In 2014-15, Peace Corps/Panama will continue to focus programming efforts on where the need is greatest and the support is weakest. Post is committed to placing at least 30% of Volunteers in indigenous communities. Additionally, Volunteers will continue to support improvements in the school system, particularly in teaching English and teaching methodologies
Panama is a safe country for Volunteers to serve. Random violent crime is rare and 99% of Volunteers report that they feel adequately safe or better where they live and 96% of Volunteers report that the safety and security support they receive is adequate or better. Panama has a modern health care system and PC/Panama will continue to function as the Regional Medevac Hub for Latin America. Eighty-seven percent of Volunteers in Panama indicate that the medical care is adequate or better.
The Panamanian government remains supportive of Peace Corps’ presence. The new President, Juan Carlos Varela, attended a recent event with volunteers and the US ambassador. In addition, the ministers of various ministries have attended Peace Corps events and supported our initiatives.
Programmatically, post will continue with four projects; Community Environmental Conservation (CEC), Environmental Health (EH), Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS), and Teaching English (TE). All projects have submitted new project plans per “Focus In Train Up” (FITU) strategy, and full implementation has started since mid - 2014. In addition, Peace Corps Response will continue strengthening capacity-building in each sector and support specific projects outside of those areas when possible and necessary.
Post expects to remain stable in terms of Volunteer input and requests 100 Volunteers per year for the next two years.
Peace Corps/Panama remains a viable program that provides a safe, quality volunteer experience. Post leadership seeks continued stability of Trainee Input and programming sector areas over the next two years. This stability will bring about a steady progress in Volunteer support, programming and training integrity and overall country impact.
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