Once the Dust Has Settled
Whenever you venture to foreign soil, you want to make sure your needs are covered. Banking, housing, medical, education for children, and finding the best place to get groceries are among our primary concerns. Once the dust has settled and we have established ourselves, our secondary desires kick in such as where to dine, exercise, enjoy quality entertainment, and for many, how to get involved and support our new community.
Three Benefits of Volunteering Abroad
- Helping the community
- The opportunity to establish relationships with like-minded people locally and find new friends who share your values and
- Building trust and a good name within the community.
Old Habits – New Country
When I lived in Jersey, Channel Islands, I worked in a soup kitchen to provide organic, chef-cooked, first-class meals for people who were not able to do this themselves for whatever reason. In my case, this activity was organized by members of my church. Naturally, I looked for volunteer opportunities through the local church community here in Panama. It took a while to find an English-speaking congregation, and once I did, I discovered that there were ample volunteer opportunities. While the congregation organized these activities, participation was not conditional upon church membership.
Volunteer for Orphans in Panama
What speaks to your heart? The first volunteer opportunity I attended was a local state-run orphanage.
From donating school materials for their in-house school to buying fresh, organic eggs from their entrepreneurial chicken project, the kids ran the operations themselves.
They impressed me. Sadly, I did not sense the little ones were getting adequate mental and material support, but it was encouraging to see that some children were taught to run a bio-farm business, which they took mighty seriously.
If you have a special heart for orphaned children, you can easily research charities online. One well-established organization is SOS Children’s Orphanage. There are many others.
Volunteer for the Elderly in Panama
Having respect for the elderly and spending time with seniors who often have little social interaction outside their immediate circle is also close to my heart. While I am not a socialite, I also know that a couple of hours spent with senior citizens in your community can lift their spirits and provide moments of joy for those who often have little to look forward to. It costs nothing but compassion and a little time out of your weekend. A smile on an old person’s face is worth every bit of effort.
Volunteer at a Local Food Bank Charity in Panama
Last, but not least, I learned about a locally run food bank near Tocumen airport through the local expat community.
To my surprise, getting a slot to volunteer there is difficult. Many expats put themselves forward, and places to help are limited. But you can also donate: one dollar buys three plates of food for those in need.
Whatever your values may be, there are ample opportunities to lend a helping hand to those who are in need.
This is especially true in less-developed countries, such as Panama. Your efforts and financial support go a long way and often have a meaningful impact on the community you now call home.
Research and Connect
I am not endorsing any charity, church, or organization. Please do your research. The search term “volunteering in Panama” yields many international organizations. If you want to hone in on smaller, local charities and causes, narrow your search, e.g. “orphanages in Panama”.
That said, TCI-International teams up with expats with a heart of gold. Just ask any of us. We are happy to point you in the direction your heart is moving, and we gladly help you to connect with like-minded expats for your charity project in your new home country.
To learn more about expat-driven charity opportunities, ask any of our in-country expat contributors.
by: LP Wirth