“Rays of Hope” in Panama City
The Panama Changemakers Group after an intense activity at the Banco De Alimentos Panama
Could you please tell us how you got the idea of opening a Changemakers Group in Panama City?
The original idea arose from a desire to get involved and engage in volunteer activities, but finding it difficult to do so because of my work and travel commitments. The idea of joining an existing organization and breezing in and out occasionally did not appeal to me, so I thought that creating a group would help making and keeping regular commitments to a good cause independently of anyone’s availability… including mine. That was the primary goal: making and keeping a commitment to the causes and organizations we are involved with. The enriching experience and meeting the likeminded people who form the heart of this group was an added benefit.
How did you choose the types of activities? Are you partnering with an NGO / charity?
Every single activity that we’ve hosted was the result of a suggestion by one of our members. I think it is very important to find causes that are as personal to some of us as possible, and as the organizer of this group, I feel that my role is not to impose my personal preferences, but rather to enable people’s desire to express their love, kindness, and generosity. All I really do is take care of the organizational side, then sit back and enjoy the group’s connection with each other and those we interact with. We’re relatively new, but we’ve already been fortunate enough to meet some wondrous individuals, ranging from 3 to 104 years of age, and some organizations that bring rays of hope into an otherwise troubling world.
What would your advice be to a Consul who would like to start a Changemakers Group?
Firstly, listen! The more you listen, the more you can engage people, and the more you engage them, the more you can achieve. It’s as simple as that. The second thing is to always — and I mean always — keep your goals in mind: it is the organizer’s job to ensure the success of the activity, however that is defined. If you want to achieve something tangible, a certain amount of preparation, structure, and organization is required, and it is your job to see to it. Thirdly, don’t ever forget that you’re in a group of people who want to help… so ask for and accept help when you need it.
What is your best experience with the Changemakers so far?
My best experience is always the same, regardless of the specific activity: to see a permanent change come from a singular action or moment. When you don’t just see, but feel, the connection that a member has made with an individual, or a cause, or perhaps with a long-neglected part of him- or herself, that is something that will have a ripple effect long after the moment itself is gone. That to me is the definition of success, and the most rewarding part of what I do.
What do the InterNations members do when they attend the activities?
One of the most wonderful things to me is always the effortless way in which members, even first-timers, join an activity and immediately find a role for themselves. When you have such an incredible group of kind, sensitive, generous, and sincere individuals, they seem to know instinctively what is needed of them. So whether we are sorting food at the local food bank, assisting the non-profit community spay and neuter clinics, visiting our Bingo Buddies at the retirement home or our friends at the girls’ home, or anything else we do, it is always a group effort and proof that a group can be greater than the sum of its parts.
Are you curious about what the Changemakers Group in your city is doing or would you like to get involved? Then learn more about the InterNations Changemakers and find out how to make a difference.