Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Volunteering in Panama

Name: Asha Woldu
From: Chicago, Il
Grade: Senior
School: George Westinghouse College Prep
Votes: 0

If I had to think of a time that made me step out into the real
world, or as some would call it adulthood, it would be the summer of
2015, June 22nd, when I looked down at Analise, writing her first
letter in English. I had traveled to Panama to help rebuild an
elementary school and teach the students English, mathematics and
other core subjects.

During my time in Panama, I was fortunate enough to live with a family that shared the
same desire for cultural exchange. They knew that I was a passionate
student helping their community and they appreciated it as well. In
Coclé, I woke up every morning and commuted to a local elementary
school that faced many obstacles daily. They often experienced
electrical failure which resulted in no air conditioning or lighting.
This made learning all the more challenging. However, the students
were very eager to learn and extremely thrilled that we wanted to
teach them. The other eleven students from my high school and I
taught pre-kindergarten children songs, the alphabet, and basic
vocabulary that they could use in their classes. We taught the rest
of the children how to write in English, form sentences and have
conversations. This greatly enhanced their curriculum and even
prompted the school to have an all-English spelling bee. After class,
the students went home and spoke English to their parents, which made
them so proud, and they also went to stores to do simple errands for
their parents using the English we taught them

After the students left for the day, we helped repair and polish the school. We
painted classrooms, added important information in English and
Spanish on the walls, and helped fix the air conditioning and
lighting issues. At the end of the day, as I reflected on the
children’s excitement and growth, the new opportunities to learn, and
the contribution I was making, I was encouraged and felt a sense of

Traveling to Panama from my home in Chicago, I had gained much more maturity to a
new culture, language, and setting. I knew that I was passionate to
change lives and also gain a sense of self and the world by going
there and helping others who don’t have the things I do. I decided to
take a risk and venture out on my own to do something I knew in my
heart I was called to do.

I put on my “grown up shoes” when I walked into the lives of so many
people in the city of Coclé. Hearing their cries, goodbyes and
“thank-yous” on the last day made me realize I had made the
right decision. As Analise finished the last word to her letter I
felt my passion to transform others was fully met. It was that very
moment when I realized this experience could not compare to any
other. I fulfilled my passion to help and educate people around the
world and will continue to do so.

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