This post is also available in: Spanish
By Howard V. Walker
Our correspondent sends this account of the happenings in a remote island in the San Blas archipelago, the territory of the indigenous Guna people. His wife, Mariela De La Ossa De Walker, is a member of a Guna family and is president of Fundación Uaguitupu (Est. 1999), a charitable organization.
March has been a busy time on the Guna island of Achutupu. First of all, another school year got underway and once more the dug-out canoes began bringing the pre K to grade 9 students from across the ocean inlets and neighbouring islands to their new classes. A surprise quickly followed with the arrival of a shipment of playground play centers, with slides and swings for the younger set. The prefabricated items were soon assembled and installed in the hot afternoon sun by the willing hands of the island community and even local members of SENAFRONT, Panama’s national frontier force, stationed there.
The playground equipment was donated by Fundación Uaguitupu, a charitable Foundation of the Guna family De La Ossa. Placement in front of the office of school director, Sr. Marciano Vargas, gives the youngsters in the “parque de niños” (children’s park) an added measure of security and the fixtures protection from misuse. The many three-to-eight year olds wasted no time in enjoying their new opportunities for recreation and fun on this isolated island.
At the week’s end, Achutupu eagerly awaited, a volunteer dental team from Illinois (Mission Save a Smile) and optometrist, Rex Leyte from Ontario, Canada. This is the 5th year of this mission organized by the Foundation, and over time the dentists have assembled an impressive treatment facility. Class by class, three dental practitioners, an oral surgeon and their 10 assistants, once more provided badly needed services ranging from fluoride application and oral hygiene presentations to performing fillings and extraction for the now over 600 students.
Upwards of 200 persons, mostly women, received eye examinations and were given glasses as necessary. Good vision is essential for the talented Guna women of Achutupu to make their exquisitely-sewn molas which augment family income. The smiles of happy recipients spoke volumes.
For more information about Fundación Uaguitupu, contact Tel. 6070-0964.