PUMAR, CARE, SNEM, USAID, ALIANZA PARA EL PROGRESO – 1964-66

PUMAR, CARE, SNEM, USAID, PEACE CORPS I joined the Peace Corps in 1964 which was the early days of the organization and goals and objectives weren’t too well defined. Training and methods of working in-country likewise weren’t well established yet. So much of what I did tended to be somewhat free – handed. Which, by the might explain much of the disdain I’ve had for what I did in the military, in my teaching methods and in my coaching career. It might also have a role in my writing style!!! Ok, back to the subject at hand. Another incident while working in Panama in ’64-’66. This is something that happened over several days in 1966. I had been involved in a lot of time spent working with a local health clinic as a “health” inspector and as a rural community developer. What we were to develop tended to be whatever we could come up with under our own initiative. I had spent a lot of time traveling to 6 or 7 local villages with our itinerant medical team of a doctor, aide and driver. Our vehicle and supplies were from the Panamanian PUMAR department which was to provide health to very rural areas. I forget the exact acronym’s meaning now. We actually got our financing as part of the U.S. A.I.D. and the Alianza para el Progreso programs of aid to Latin America. This was all cheap foreign aid as the real money went to military and to politicos! I would work with the communities in developing projects to help basic needs: wells, servicios (outhouses), and several small community centers to be used by local leaders and the medical people when they held clinics. Most of the labor had to come from the locals so we developed constructions methods with the help of CARE and AID. We had a “cinva ram” machine that used sand and cement within a pressured chamber (all hand operated) to make a adobe-like block. We incorporated this with a basic “tin/zinc” roof and wood framework with a concrete floor. By the way, this was all labor intensive and took forever to progress. And knowing how slowly things progressed in Latin America in those days, most of my projects were turned over to my replacement volunteers when I left after my two years were up. One service that we saw often in those days were the guys from SNEM ( Servicios Nacionales de las Eradicacion de la Malaria). Yep, they would periodically go into every edifice and spray DDT. Remember, this was in the mid 1960’s! I never was “home” when they came to my room in the school I lived in so hope I avoided some of the ill-effects of DDT. Good things on one hand and future repercussions on the other hand. Another program I saw so much was the TB testing. All of the Guaymi Indians I worked with and many of the camposinos tested positive for TB. What a world we lived in! OOOPS, that we “live” in! Several of the projects I worked with were at Cerro Iglesias – two sites -, Las Lajas, and Llano Nopo (with an nye) which I don’t know how to type in). I’ll talk of these sites soon.

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