Panama was the final stop of the Peace Boat US sustainability project, and our group received a wonderful welcome from an Embera indigenous village that sustains itself through handicrafts and eco-tourism. Peace Boat US has been friends with the people of this village for a decade, and has helped build their water tanks in the past. The community is a sister village of a Kuna indigenous village that Peace Boat US is supporting through infrastructure improvements.
The Kuna people reside in the autonomous islands off the coast of Panama, and live independent from the Panamanian government. The aim of Peace Boat US’ visit to the Dagar Kuna Yala village of approximately 900 people was threefold: to help improve the safety and sanitation of the community by bringing funds needed to build latrines and permanent walkways; to highlight traditional Kuna arts and clothing items called Mola; and to give inner city youth from New York an opportunity to travel to the community and make a documentary about its realities. The visit to the Kuna community began with the local artisans exhibiting their vibrant Mola, which they carefully craft using layers of fabric. They sell their art through fair trade projects, thereby raising funds for their community and cultivating external interest in their culture.
While visiting the community, Peace Boat US delivered funds it had collected to help build public latrines, a septic system, and safe walkways, all of which the community needed to improve its health and safety. Peace Boat US and MAPA participants stayed in the homes of the villagers in order to gain a better perspective on their living conditions. The experience proved to be eye-opening, and gave participants a taste of the sense of community of both the Kuna and Embera as they work together to preserve their culture and create a sustainable future.