Each year, I travel down to Panama to a rural community called Boca Guariviara within the Ngabe Indian reservation. I lived full time in this small fishing village for two years working for the US Peace Corps from 2016-2018. This December, I was able to return for the first time since January 2020. Each year I invite anyone who wants to join me to travel down and meet the community; and this year, I was accompanied by Julian Parasi, and my father, Greg Crouch.

Julian and Greg tasting fresh coconut

For this year’s visit, we knew we could do more to support this community in need. During the countrywide lockdown, the Panamanian government froze all its medical service trips into the indigenous reservations. There was little access to basic health care supplies for the families and the community health struggled. I felt called to donate resources that can help to bridge the gap until the government reestablishes regular medical support. I put together a fundraising campaign and we brought down supplies for over 200 individuals.

Handing off the medical supplies

The supplies were handed off to the local health group and these community leaders distributed a supply bags to each household. Each bag contained the following:

Fever reducers, rehydration salts, antibiotic ointment, vinyl gloves, masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bandages, gauze, coban wrap, disposable thermometers, Pepto-Bismol, hydrocortisone, shampoo, and a vinyl file folder.

We spent four nights in Boca G with a wonderful host family, the Bonilla’s. We chowed on fresh fish and food harvested directly from the family farm. Root vegetables similar to the potato, plantains, and coconut accompanied nearly every dish. Our hosts made us coffee with fresh ground beans and a traditional chocolate drink using raw cocoa both grown in their farms. Fresh lemons, palm fruit, and herbs all add to the local flavor pallet. 

Eating dinner with the Bonilla Family

Visiting a community like Boca G comes without pageantry. We stay in traditional housing and partake in the day to day activities of the locals. We go fishing, travel to the farm, tell stories, and enjoy family. There are lots of folks interested to practice their English!

Paddling around the river

Visiting Boca G is an experience that can remind us how few material goods we really need to be happy. By visiting and exchanging cultures, we can realize how much more we have in common with others than we were aware.

If you would like to learn more about the families of Boca Guariviara, please reach out to me.

Johnny and Maria Bonilla

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