Panama is distinct for its rich culture, unique geography, and economy. It has a wonderful sense of being preserved and under the tourist radar.
Culturally Panama is diversely represented by eight indigenous groups comprising 5 percent of the population, an Afro-Antillean population representing 15 of the population, and a large population of immigrants who now call Panama home for its beauty and economic advantages and opportunities.
Geaographically Panama resembles the shape of a snake with the unique orientation of having a coastline to the north, The Caribbean Sea, and to the south, The Pacific Ocean. The S shaped isthmus is divided into 9 provinces and is bordered to the west by Costa Rica and Columbia to the east. In the east is Panama’s largest city, Panama City, and its crown economic jewel, The Panama Canal. The Bocas del Toro province shares a border with Costa Rica and within this province is the island archipelago of Bocas del Toro. This archipelago is Give & Surf’s home as well as large populations of Afro-Panamanians, Ngobe Bugle Indians, and visiting tourists.
Economically Panama City and the rest of Panama are heading in two very opposite directions. In 1999 America handed over the rights of the Panama Canal and since then Panama City has been flooded with large development projects, international investment, and most recently the expansion of the canal and a new metro system. When visiting you will be extremely surprised to see just how sprawling and developed a city of only 1.2 million is. The less recognizable face of Panama for tourists are the individuals we as an organization share experiences with daily.
The communities Give & Surf support are part of the largest indigenous group in Panama, The Ngöbe–Buglé. The Ngöbe speak Ngäbere as well as Spanish and generally practice subsistence agriculture in areas of the comarca. Being that the communities we work with do not have a lot of land the families are supported through jobs with local foreign owned businesses as well as fishing and farming. The community infrastructure and educational support provided by the government to this region is significantly worse than the more populated areas of Bocas del Toro and Panama. Due to the lack of government support and opportunities 90% of the Ngöbe population live in extreme poverty and nearly 100% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. The lack of government provided school has also resulted in only 18% of children ages 15-19 continuing education past 6th grade and a 55% literacy rate. For these reasons Give & Surf aims to improve the education and lives of those children and community members we are so closely connected to.