Panama

The Versatility of the LtN Experience: Rachel Ziemba

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With my return to school rapidly approaching, I can confidently look back and say, what an awesome summer! I luckily got to spend June and July working for LtN in the sweaty yet beautiful Bocas. Seeing LtN’s Panama presence turn just one year old, my fellow interns and I were all reminded of both the progress that had been made in such short time and the great potential to grow that still remained.

Taking this potential as inspiration for action, we all divvied up the many things we hoped to accomplish in order to leave LtN Panama a little better than we found it and got to work. I took the lead on analyzing and reorganizing LtN’s metrics and evaluation methods in place for Nicaragua programs. In addition, I developed a similar system for Bocas, something that had yet to materialize due to the growing nature of our programs there.

Working in a foreign country for a small non-profit with a relatively new presence in the area, this summer proved to be equally as challenging as valuable. I learned to navigate working with limited resources, mastering the art of improvisation and problem solving. Cultivating genuine trust with the local community by immersing myself wholeheartedly also required me to take a few worthwhile steps outside my comfort zone.

“For a Biology major with aspirations to become a physician one day, what struck me most about my time with LtN was how I will be able to transfer all that I learned to my academic discipline and intended career path."

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For a Biology major with aspirations to become a physician one day, what struck me most about my time with LtN was how I will be able to transfer all that I learned to my academic discipline and intended career path. While the actual work I do will change one day, it will do so in name only, as the principles that govern working to improve the lives of others using creative, modest methods and solutions will remain the same. Similarly, I know one day I’ll be able to point to my experience connecting with the players and parents of Bocas as a strong foundation for the ability to establish honest, natural relationships with patients and families.

While interning with LtN this summer, I learned to make the most of the available resources to maximize the benefit of my presence anywhere for whomever I may serve.  My biggest dream for the future is to be able to care for people in the greatest need, and I’m grateful to LtN for giving me the tools to accomplish my dreams. I sincerely hope that one day I may be able to use my newly-minted background in a small, international non-profit organization to work for a humanitarian cause and help make the world a better place. 

As a final sendoff I must say THANK YOU to LtN for an amazing and valuable summer. I will forever carry with me the countless lessons learned in Bocas.

Our First LtN Experiences: Summer Interns Talk

Only a short two weeks ago, we landed in Bocas del Toro ready to learn, experience and assist in all aspects of LtN programs. So far, it’s been awesome. From how to organize practice plans to understanding the value of community engagement and trust, our interns have seen so much. We spend our mornings going on runs along the water, our days with kids at practice and the local school, and our nights binging Netflix together and learning how to cook for a house of 6. By the time we reach the weekend, we are grateful for the time to explore the islands, bike around town, and catch up on some Z’s. Being able to bounce new program ideas off of each other has brought us many laughs and much learning. Here are our initial reactions of LtN in Bocas and what we are excited for over the next couple months...


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Gunnar: “I’m excited to see the day-to-day of living and working here. From how to effectively get in touch with the community and help serve their needs to how a nonprofit operates, all elements are important to me - no matter how little.”

Will: “As the primary intern in charge of fundraising, I am working on growing our LtN network this summer. Learning more about how LtN connects various teams and programs to grow the game has been a really cool experience. I am blown away by how invested our supporters are in our mission and by the interest I have seen from those wanting to get involved.”

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Jordan: “In my first two weeks I have seen how lacrosse extends beyond the field and brings joy, structure, and learning to kids. For example, one of our players was awarded his very own lacrosse stick due to showing respect, teamwork, and consistent effort at practice. His face lit up! Knowing the influence this sport can have on so many lives makes me really pumped for this summer.”

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Rob: “The positive attitudes of kids and their desire to learn each and every day has really been inspiring. Not only do they exemplify the impact that LtN’s programs can have on a community, but the positivity and engagement of the kids open the door for further growth. As the lead intern for our Community Outreach element, I am excited to work with the community and continue mutually beneficial work here in Panama.” 

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Rachel: “Seeing the passion that our young players have for the sport makes me even more excited to share my love of the game with them and continue to grow the sport through LtN.

Program Director, Maria: “The kids at practice are so helpful and patient with me as I begin to develop my Spanish skills that it makes every day that much more fun! I am truly learning virtually every minute of every day.” 





LtN Impact: Physical Limitations Can't Limit Eybar

LtN Impact: Physical Limitations Can’t Limit Eybar

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Eybar arrived to the Bocas Community Center where we hold practices one afternoon in November with his brother. It was during a group trip, and I was sitting on the porch of the community center with Karen (one of our volunteers visiting with the group).  Karen noticed Eybar eagerly watching everyone play pick up before practice, so she asked him if he was interested in playing. Eybar shook his head “no”.

Polaroid photos of Caroline, Karen, and Eybar on Eybar’s first day of lacrosse in Bocas del Toro.

Polaroid photos of Caroline, Karen, and Eybar on Eybar’s first day of lacrosse in Bocas del Toro.

I should probably mention before moving forward with my story that Eybar has physical limitations, but by no means do they limit him. Eybar uses a wheelchair.

Not being able to communicate in Spanish, Karen used creativity to express a powerful message to Eybar. She pulled up a video from youtube of wheelchair lacrosse and we asked if he would watch with us. Eybar began watching the video and his eyes lit up with excitement.  He became so engrossed in the video that he leaned over to get closer to the screen and almost fell into Karen’s lap. Seeing the enormous smile on Eybar’s face almost brought tears to my eyes, I had never seen someone become so empowered by something.

After watching the video, we asked Eybar again if he wanted to play.  This time he responded by immediately reaching for my stick. I put him in his wheelchair and took him out to the beach so he could experience the new game he just discovered.

We started out with everyone’s favorite drill, steal the bacon. At first, Eybar asked me if I would wheel him around. I gladly accepted his request and when his number was called, I would wheel him out to go after the ball. His determination was striking.  I could not keep up. He was so fierce, constantly wanting to attack and go after the ball. After that drill my face hurt from smiling and laughing so hard. It was such a joy seeing Eybar having what seemed like the time of his life. It didn’t take long until he took the field on his own.

“After a water break, I asked if he wanted to play in the scrimmage. He replied that he wanted to sit out for a little. Only five minutes later came the most powerful moment I may have witnessed.”

Eybar - AKA the Ninja in Goal.

Eybar - AKA the Ninja in Goal.

After a water break, Eybar was watching the scrimmage from the sideline when I noticed his face overcome with this determined look.  He slowly removed himself from his wheelchair and grabbed a stick from the bag. He was heading to the field. You could see it in his eyes, he was not stopping until he got to our 3x practice goal. When he arrived at the cage, he positioned himself in front of the net, declaring himself the designated goalie for the rest of practice. Every time someone came up with the ball he immediately shouted, demanding the ball in his stick. He would dive to save shots, eager to get the ball any point it was remotely close to him. This kid was a ninja.

After practice was over, I went to sit on the steps.  Eybar came over with an orange and sat next to me asking if I would like to share with him.  We sat on the steps for a couple minutes just talking and eating the orange, when suddenly I felt arms clench around my waist.  He leaned closer to my ear and said, “gracias”. I struggled to hold back tears.

This is a moment I will hold on to for the rest of my life. There were many factors that led to Eybar’s discovery that day, from our determined and caring volunteers to our supportive players who now call themselves Eybar’s teammates. If not for Karen’s brilliant idea, Eybar may have never included himself in practice that day.

Teammate and friend, Anthony, posing with Caroline and Eybar after practice.

Teammate and friend, Anthony, posing with Caroline and Eybar after practice.

Watching Eybar transform from a discouraged kid to a fearless warrior on the field reminded me of what this program means and why it started. Sure, the sport itself is fun. But, it is so much more than that. I love getting to teach lacrosse in a community that has no prior knowledge of what the sport is.  From my time here in Panama, I see examples of it every day. We use this sport to empower and motivate kids like Eybarto believe in themselves and build the confidence to try new things.

— Caroline Rath, LtN Panama Program Director

A Letter of Thanks: Will Cogan on his Trip to Panama

My name is Will Cogan and I am a senior defenseman at Christopher Newport University. A few weeks ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Bocas del Toro, Panama to work with kids and spread the game that I love. I did this with teammates and members of the Washington & Lee men’s and women’s lacrosse team.

Will and CNU teammate, Miles, coaching some beach lax in Bocas.

Will and CNU teammate, Miles, coaching some beach lax in Bocas.

This experience is something that I will never forget. In my 15 years of playing lacrosse, this was by far the most rewarding, humbling, and unforgettable experience I have had in the game of lacrosse. Each day we woke up with the opportunity to positively impact high schoolers and young kids with the game that we love so much. Knowing that every day would give us an opportunity to teach a game that these kids have never seen before seemed challenging at first, but once we had the stick in our hands it was just like any other day for us. We got to teach kids how to catch, throw, scoop ground balls, and even fun games like hungry hungry hippo. Whether it was at the local high school or at the Give & Surf community center on the beach it was a week filled with smiles, laughs, and a whole lot of fun.

Will testing out his goalie skills alongside fellow volunteer and W&L Women's Coach, Erica.

Will testing out his goalie skills alongside fellow volunteer and W&L Women's Coach, Erica.

I want to express how thankful I am of the Lacrosse the Nations staff (Caroline and Brooke) and the Give & Surf staff (Drew and Taylor) for giving us such an amazing experience. Drew and Taylor taught us so much about the communities of Bocas and Bastimentos, and as took us on many adventures that I will never forget. Brooke and Caroline showed us that you do not need to speak the same language in order to connect with young kids and teach the game that we love.

I hope that LtN can continue to grow their programs in Bocas del Toro, and that it remains a place to go for years to come. I STRONGLY encourage any lacrosse player, coach, or fan to go on a trip with Lacrosse the Nations, to experience what its like to give back to a sport that has given us so much. Thank you LtN and Give & Surf.

 

- Will Cogan

CNU Mens Lacrosse '19