As a percentage of its population (20%) Boquete has the largest ex-pat community in Panama -- 5,000 ex-pats in a community of 25,000.
As a result, Boquete is something of a hub for ex-pats in Panama.
Even though I live in Boquete, I have also gotten to know a number of ex-pats in surrounding communities, particularly those living in David, Volcan, Coronado, and Bocas del Toro.
The following story of the development of a Partnership to transform the lives of a wonderful and welcoming Ngobe community of 350 people in Bocas del Toro through the installation of a 22 kW solar generation system is a good illustration of how our ex-pat communities work together.
On August 24, 2015 Kieron Baudains, Manager of Islas Secas Resort (“Islas Secas”) and a resident of Boquete, contacted me asking whether Fundacion Amigos de Boquete (“Amigos”) would be interested in helping Islas Secas to find the most appropriate location for a 22 kW Solar Generation System, complete with Panels, SMA Inverters, Batteries, and a 17 kW Diesel Backup Generator that they wished to donate to a Community.
He added that Islas Secas would pay for the transportation, as well as installation of the System by Victor, the gentleman who installed the System at Islas Secas.
We had two false starts in the Ngobe-Bugle Comarca adjacent to San Felix.
Then GLOBAL Bank proposed a Turtle Preserve and Research Station in Bocas del Toro.
As soon as I got the Turtle Preserve Proposal, I contacted Amigos’ Strategic Advisor, Joshua Haarbrink, to seek his advice.
Joshua used to live in Boquete and is a trusted partner of Amigos.
Joshua said he would check out the Turtle Preserve, but that Floating Doctors would be the best Partner for the Project.
His recommendation was immediately supported by Dr. Dan Evers, an ex-pat veterinarian who used to live in Bocas del Toro and accompanied the Floating Doctors on their travels so that he could treat animals while the floating Doctors treated people.
On December 10, 2015, Kieron, Jack Bute (President of Amigos), Cary Trantham (Treasurer of Amigos), Jack's wife Sofia, Carrie's friend Karen, and I traveled to Bocas del Toro to meet with Dr. Ben La Brot (President of Floating Doctors), and Joshua to see the Floating Doctors new Headquarters on Isla San Cristobal and to visit Isla Valle Escondido, the Ngobe Community that Dr. Ben recommended for the Solar Generation System.
The new Floating Doctors Headquarters will accommodate 60 volunteers and enable floating Doctors to significantly expand the scope of their work. In this regard, with only 25 volunteers in 2015 Floating Doctors treated 10,000 patients in 25 communities in a 7,000 square mile area in Bocas del Toro.
After our tour of the new Floating Doctors Headquarters, we took the five minute boat ride to Valle Escondido.
When we landed at Valle Escondido we were welcomed with genuine warmth and asked to join the Community Leaders and available Valle Escondido citizens to discuss the Solar Generation System Project.
The Meeting began with a statement by the Senior Community Leader that they would very much appreciate the Solar Generation System and had agreed as a Community that modest payments would be required from all recipients so as to provide funding for maintenance, repairs, and replacement parts.
She added that the Community had agreed to limit the amount of electricity used by each house so that the greatest number of
houses could be accommodated in addition to the Community Rancho.
After some discussion, it was determined that the System could provide electricity for the Community Rancho and approximately 40 houses given limitations on usage.
The Community Leader further stated that the Community wished to participate in any way that they could with the installation and maintenance of the System.
Dr. Ben responded that Floating Doctors was committed to surveillance of the System and to coordinating with Floating Doctors’ solar partners to train the Community Members, particularly with the help of Gregorio a resident of Valle Escondido who has proved himself very capable with another solar project.
Kieron then stepped in and stated that Islas Secas would provide the electric transmission lines, lights, and electric outlets for each of
the houses on the System. He requested that the Community Leader provide him with quotations for the necessary materials to complete that part of the Project.
It was thus that the Partnership among Islas Secas Resort, Floating Doctors, and the Valle Escondido Community was born to create and maintain the First Community Electric System within 7,000 square miles of mountain and mangrove islands in the Bocas del Toro area.
One of the great joys about living in Boquete is the camaraderie that members of the ex-pat residents of Boquete enjoy not only with each other, but also with other ex-pats throughout Panama.