History of the Peace Corps in Panama
The Peace Corps has a long history in Panama. The first Volunteers began work in 1963 and continued serving in Panama until May 1971. In February 1990, the Panamanian government asked the Peace Corps to return, and the program has continued without interruption ever since.
The central goal of Peace Corps/Panama is to promote sustainable community development, in partnership with Panamanian agencies and NGOs, in Panama’s poorest and most disenfranchised regions. Each project has sector-specific goals related to this commitment.
With the reversion of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1999, the country is at a critical juncture in its history. For the first time in many decades, there is no American military presence. The economy, when not in recession, is generally weak with growing unemployment. The areas most affected by these economic woes are rural and indigenous communities, and this is where you will find Peace Corps Volunteers working. Volunteers work with communities and agency/NGO partners to meet the challenges of poverty. By helping communities gain access to resources and helping agencies locate communities in need, Volunteers facilitate a more efficient allocation of resources and help establish links between the communities and agencies that can last well after the Volunteers have left.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Panama
Approximately 750 Peace Corps Volunteers served in Panama from 1963 to 1971. More than 500 Volunteers have served since 1990; 140 are currently in service. Volunteers are assigned to one of the four projects: community environmental conservation, sustainable agriculture, community economic development, and environmental health.
Peace Corps/Panama integrates projects so that Volunteers can best meet the needs of their communities. In many situations, it is both helpful and necessary for Volunteers to be versed in topics that lie outside their sector. The groundwork for such integration is accomplished during the training period and subsequent in-service training sessions.
Peace Corps/Panama continually works to meet the growing needs of rural Panamanians. Recent program additions support HIV/AIDS education, information technology development, youth development, and gender equity.