Children of Panama Connect to California Friends

Image: Niaz teaches an FCL song to children in spanish.

Children in Tarzana, California sat in rapt attention as Niaz Khadem taught them Full-Circle Learning songs in a foreign language and showed them pictures of Ngobe Bugle children building their own homes and schools with thatched roofing. This liaison to Panama had come to California to give the class a sense of the purpose and drive of their global partners, who heeded the call to identify how each culture adapts technologies for roof building that “keep the rain outside and the love inside.” Students in Tarzana had practiced on tree house construction but learned much more by witnessing the practical skills and knowledge of the resourceful children at the remote school in Molejon, Panama. In this mountain village, the indigenous people speak Spanish only as a second language, people live sparely and cars are not practical. Kindness, creativity and resourcefulness are the most abundant commodities.

Three years prior, the Badi School in David, Panama, had hosted three schools to learn to adapt the Full-Circle Learning program to their cultural, school and community needs. This capacity-building program offers tools for integrating character themes and service into the school-day curriculum and teaching students to become community builders, literally and figuratively. The trainer, Niaz Khadem, especially bonded with children and teachers in the mountain community of Molejon, a long trek, on foot, from the city. The school children there exhibited goals and traits already aligned with those of the program.

The Tarzana connection occurred when mostly-immigrant students in America decided to help build the school in Molejon with a hikathon and readathon. These suburbanites walked three miles in the mountains to learn empathy for what it would be like to build a school in such a community. Some read long books for the first time. They took pledges for miles walked or pages read. Monies collected, delivered by Mona Foundation representative Sima Mobini, assisted with the building of a kindergarten. Their personal “sacrifice basket” of school supplies impressed the elders of Molejon most, however, according to Sima. The following year, the Tarzana students received beautiful poetry, letters, drawings and woven bags from the Ngobe Bugle children about the habits-of-heart. Next, they saw the presentation Niaz brought to demonstrate how to collect the leaves and construct the airtight roof of a structure. Fair housing has since become an annual theme in Tarzana, with new layers of understanding inspired by the Ngobe Bugle children, now, in their own right, international teachers.