Bocas is a special place, and Program Director Caroline Rath is no doubt a very special person! Over the past year, Caroline has spearheaded the development of a brand new LtN site. This is no simple task - each day Caroline consciously worked to build relationships by getting involved in the community, spreading the word about our programs and thinking critically about community needs... all the while living in a new country with a new language. This was nothing short of a daunting set of tasks when Caroline first arrived last July! However, looking back on her time in Bocas, it is an experience that Caroline explains has been so valuable, rewarding and absolutely life-changing for her.
My name is Maria and I am the newest Program Director of LtN’s Panama site. Through my studies and my short time here in Bocas, I have observed that it takes a particular skill set to spearhead international development work. Every day Caroline wears a smile and brings her ambitious, can-do attitude to any and all situations. Whether tackling a new programmatic obstacle or accomplishing a goal, a part of the job is learning and adapting almost every minute of each day. As Caroline wraps up her volunteer year with LtN, I have been lucky enough to have this opportunity to learn from her hard work, say goodbye, and most importantly say thank you to the young woman who has filled every day in Bocas with laughter and lessons.
Having only arrived in Bocas 4 weeks ago as Caroline’s future replacement, I was admittedly just as nervous as I was excited for all that was to come. Since then, I have realized that I could not have asked for a better, more fun and responsible person to help me transition into the role of Program Director for LtN in Bocas. The advice, reassurance and encouragement that she has instilled in me and LtN’s summer interns since our arrival are unparalleled. From patiently listening to me try to speak Spanish to the kids at practice to pushing me to meet as many locals as possible in order to expand our network, Caroline has opened my eyes to the ins and outs of living and working in Bocas. Its not surprising that the achievements she has made here for LtN’s programs over the past year are reflective of her calmness, constant laughter and impressive work ethic.
While this entry cannot fully express the appreciation myself and our family in Bocas have for Caroline and her work, , I am hopeful that these words of gratitude are a strong start. Ironically, that is the mark that Caroline has left us here with: a strong start. There is a saying that goes, “nothing worth having ever comes easy.” Running successful programs, creating lasting relationships and influencing lives takes a lot of determined work. But, Caroline has put in that work and shown me just how worthwhile the effort is.
Indeed, Bocas may run on “island time” and the people have different ideas around the “necessities” in life, but Caroline and the Bocas community have all experienced the fruits of her labor, and our team has thrived over this past month because of her guidance. From her I have already learned so much. Ultimately, nothing beats the feeling of seeing a young laxer gain a new skill or earn their very own stick; watching children finally work together to score a goal or to understand that mistakes are simply part of learning; or even discovering the beauty of a life defined by simplicity.I could not be more grateful to Caroline for what she has taught me and without her hard work, willing personality and ability to dive head on into challenges, LtN in Bocas would not have developed to where it is now. So, once more, thank you, Caroline. Your Bocas Family and I cannot wait for you to come back and visit!
— Maria M.