Once upon a time, here in Los Altos de Cerro Azul, lived a woman in a small house surrounded by dense jungle. This woman had a strong desire to help local, not so well off, children learn English. The public school system teaches only Basic English. If you want more you have to pay to go to a private school.
On the way down the mountain, about half way, is one of the few level wide spots in the road and it houses a small general store called Nino’s. It has been there for years and is a popular stop for everyone going up and down the mountain. They sell the basic necessities along with propane, for cooking and hot water. They also have a small restaurant that is open for lunch.
Many of the locals in that area use the infrequent busses, most of which are vans, to travel. They all stop at Nino’s so it is a convenient place to pick up whatever they are needing on the way home or a little something for lunch on the way to work.
Anyways, our woman who wanted to help children, discussed her wish with the owner of Nino’s, who could see the value in education and offered a small room (about 3 Meters by 5 Meters) for a classroom, without charge.
After school each week, on Saturday at three in the afternoon, a small group of kids ranging from age six to 16, arrived on time for a free lesson in conversational English. All the training aides were made by “the teacher”, as she was respectfully called by her students.
We are coming to the end of the public school year, and two of “the teacher’s” students were having birthdays. The concept of a combined graduation birthday party evolved into reality and the invite went out to the students and their friends. The kids came up with their ideas for decorations and busily prepared and installed them, with a little help. Colorful balloons, lights, banners, cake, cupcakes and other food, as well as a piñata all turned up to transform the dingy little room into a party atmosphere. The theme was Mickey and Mini Mouse. Happily, I got to take this party in with my camera!
Here is the graduation class, smaller than it started out due to students having to go to work. Maybe the class next year will be larger.
I have said this before about Panamanian kids. In a group at a function with adults they are all well-behaved and respectful to adults. I cannot imagine such behavior in North America. The culture is different and this is one of the differences I like.
The party started with a couple of simple games like pin the tail on the burro and a potato race. A couple of the older kids ran or assisted with the events. Food was next. Everyone sat and waited patiently as a plate of rice was delivered to them. Cake and cupcakes were all candled and lit. After everyone got their pictures of the cake and cupcakes, they returned to their seats for the delivery. Last activity was the breaking of the piñata. Piñatas are often associated with Mexico but they are also common throughout Central America, particularly if it involves kids. Surprisingly the piñata only cost around five dollars at the local Chinese store. Everyone lines up and each kid gets a chance to take three whacks until the piñata breaks. The bigger kids also get a blindfold. Once the piñata breaks there is an immediate dive and mad scramble to recover all the candy that is on the floor. Quite the process.
Here are some of the photos I took. The low light and small room make for difficult shots. I had to use my wide-angle lens to cover the room. Some distortion shows on some of the shots. The low light forced a flash, which was not a problem, but the low light through the viewfinder caused most shots to be fired blind, causing greater post processing time, particularly in cropping. I will also post some shots on my Facebook account. (J Keith Howie). Enjoy.