Cambio Creativo Christmas Appeal

coco marca combinaciones

The 2013 Christmas appeal by Cambio Creativo is even more ambitious than last year’s, with a donations target of $10,000 to help the children and youths of this deprived community in one of the poorest parts of Panama.

The generous people who donated last year (THANK YOU!!!) will be interested to learn how their money has helped this community grow and expand and is enabling the people of the community to feel connected even though they have been divided. The Panamanian government has claimed part of their land to expand the port of Colon, meaning some Coco Solo residents have been relocated some distance away.

Thank you from Coco Solo!

Thank you from Coco Solo!

Giving what you can to these great people, to this great community, is such a worthwhile Christmas present! A Christmas present for the deserving of Coco Solo, who are learning thanks to libraries provided by Cambio Creativo who next year are looking to provide sponsorships for fourteen students during 2014.

Many thanks in advance for your generosity – this is a phenomenal charity, and one where you know the money is going direct to where it is needed the most – an important consideration in these days of vast charitable organizations with poor accountability. Here is the donation page, which I hope you will be inspired to visit after reading this, the appeal letter, which says everything better than I ever could!:

cambio creativo: an unwavering vision
Dear Friends of Cambio Creativo:

Cambio Creativo has an unlikely story. Our organization started against all odds, without funds or much experience. But we have an unwavering vision and this has been priceless. We envisioned an organization driven by the serious needs of the youth in the community, run by Coco Solo residents, and that also created an international network of solidarity. We wanted to create a space open to cross-cultural collaboration, where community members and visitors could exchange knowledge and skills. We wanted to break stereotypes through consciousness-raising and work together to empower Coco Solo youth.

Today we are doing just that, our vision has come together.

We now have an educational center and a library open to 150+ students who attend after-school classes 3 times a week. We facilitate monthly workshops, training programs, and field trips. We host international volunteers including consultants from the University of Texas. And we collaborate with such amazing and diverse organizations such as Roba Morena, Bio Museo, Earth Train, Estudio Nuboso, and Festival Abierto. All of our paid staff are Coco Solo residents, thanks to a number of prestigious grants.

However, this year will be one of our most challenging. But our vision and commitment has not wavered.

The Panamanian government has sold the land in Coco Solo to an international shipping company so they can expand their ports and yards. Over half the Coco Solo population have been relocated to a new community to Buena Vista, some 25 miles away.The rest of the Coco Solo community, however, is still waiting for their houses to be constructed. Our community has been divided, and yet Cambio Creativo is still operating educational programming in both communities.

To face these challenges and continue to improve the quality of educational opportunity for our students, we need your help more than ever. We need you to be in solidarity with the youth of Coco Solo and be part of our international community.

Please donate to our materializing vision. For this year, we need to raise $10,000 for student scholarships, program operating costs, our emergency fund, and our annual Christmas party. We truly appreciate your support.

Happy Holidays! And much love,

Cambio Creativo Family


Coco Solo: How the Frog and the Caiman was Created

Coco Solo audiobook team

Coco Solo audiobook team

Remember ‘The Frog and the Caiman’, the beautifully illustrated audiobook by the children of Coco Solo from earlier this year? Here is the story of how the project came to fruition.

The audio book workshop was led by Lorena Endara and Eduardo Arenas, the idea fitting perfectly with this year’s goal of increasing literacy at Coco Solo. In Lorena’s own words:

“Eduardo noticed that a lot of the kids who don’t know how to read also don’t have someone who will read to them. He also believes that hearing the sounds while seeing the letters is integral to learning how to read. This was a great way to empower the kids into creating their own learning tools. The audio book exemplifies Cambio Creativo’s mission at its best!”

Coco Solo Recording Session

Recording the Frog and the Caiman

“The young participants (8-14 year olds) were so excited to realize that their story would be “published”. The Cambio Creativo team developed the story together, each child adding to the story line one by one. Then Winnie Natero narrated it while another group recorded the sounds effects. Afterwards, several of them made illustrations. Eduardo mixed the audio, and I edited the video.”

Coco Solo illustrators hard at work

Coco Solo illustrators hard at work

“We believe this audiobook is a great resource for the youth of Coco Solo, as well as for the public at large. It is amazing to see the enthusiasm and confidence that comes about creating something so purposeful and that kids everywhere are keen on multimedia pieces, you tube videos, apps, etc. This is a way to take that medium and use it towards educational endeavors. We are all so proud of collaborating to develop these projects!”

‘The Frog and the Caiman’ Illustrated Audiobook from the Kids of Coco Solo

The children of Coco Solo got together recently to make a really charming illustrated audiobook entitled ‘El Sapo y el Caiman’ – ‘The Frog and the Caiman.’  Here is the first page, complete with my translation underneath:

The Frog and the Caiman by the children of Coco Solo

Once upon a time, a green frog was swimming through a dangerous stream. This stream was full of large fish who wanted to eat the frog. The frog became scared and jumped onto the land where it met a caiman.

Please click on the link below to listen to the story and see the pictures in all their glory. You will be impressed!

You know, I think the best way to do this post would be simply to show each page, and include a translation underneath, so this beautiful creation can reach an audience of English speakers as well as Spanish speakers. (My Spanish is not so brilliant, but you should get the gist well enough 🙂 ) So, page 2:

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo page 2, Panama

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo3

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo4

The caiman said to him: “I would like to help you get to know the forest!”.

The frog and the caiman went all around the forest.

And then he said to him: “Would you like to come to my house for dinner?”.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo5

The frog and the caiman went to the caiman’s house, but the frog did not for one moment suspect that he was going to be dinner. The caiman put a saucepan of water on to boil then put the frog inside and shut the lid.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo6

The frog jumped

and jumped

and jumped

until the lid fell off.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo7

The caiman was relaxing watching his fish tank, wondering whether he was going to dine on frog with octopus or fish and frog Escabeche.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo8

When he realized that the frog had run off, he started to chase him, but as the frog was very small and agile, he escaped him by running, swimming and jumping.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo9

After running and jumping and swimming for a long time, the frog arrived at Froggy Island, where his mum, dad, gran, aunt and uncle lived with his four brothers and sisters.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo10

The frog told his family that a caiman wanted to eat him, but as it was his little brother’s birthday, there was a really big party…

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo11

Everyone celebrated with grilled flies, music and dancing.


Isn’t it great? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow turn it into a real paper book??  At a later date I need to tell you all about the team involved behind this, but for now, just enjoy the story!

Coco Solo Christmas Appeal Update

I am very pleased to announce that Cambio Creativo have not only reached, but exceeded their $4000 target! Thanks to people’s outstanding generosity, this has been achieved in time for Christmas Day, which should make tomorrow an extra special celebration for the people of Coco Solo.

I would like to thank all the family and friends and readers of my blog who have donated so generously to this outstandingly worthy cause. Also I would like to thank my Panama friends and neighbours and my son’s Pre-K who gave such amazing donations of toys, books, household items and foodstuffs. We even received a bicycle, which was super exciting for the children!

I hope to visit Coco Solo early in the New Year to see how all our donations are being used. Photos to follow.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me, currently spending time with my family in chilly Scotland!

¡Feliz Navidad y un próspero año nuevo!


Coco Solo Christmas Appeal

Hello everyone! A bit of a different type of post, especially for this festive season!

The Cambio Creativo (Creative Change) team at Coco Solo, a deprived area near to Colón, have asked me to be an Ambassador for them. Amongst other things, they run educational programmes and creative classes, including art and photography, for the children and young people of this area.

Here is some information about this project:

Cambio Creativo home page

I am helping Cambio Creativo raise $4000 for the Coco Solo community by the end of the year, as well as by arranging a collection of toys, books and food for the youngsters.

My husband and I have requested that this year, instead of giving us presents, our relatives donate to this fantastic cause instead. Also, instead of buying each other a load of things we do not need, we are donating the money we would have spent on each other to this extremely worthy cause.

This community really needs your help, so it would be amazing if you could do something similar in your family, or individually. Here is the donations page, which also details how the funding will be used, including a Christmas party, soup kitchen and emergency fund.

Cambio Creativo donations page

Also, if anyone has any toys, books or non-perishable food items they would like to donate and you are near the Clayton area of Panama City, please contact me through the comments section.

Thank you so much in advance! And a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at Cambio Creativo, Coco Solo!

P.S. Another excellent way to help this community is through these photographs taken by the young people of Coco Solo and available for purchase here:

Cambio Creativo Art for Sale

Here is a photograph taken, appropriately enough, by a boy named Jesus:


For more information on the background to Coco Solo, please see my previous post on the area, here:

Coco Solo: The Other Side of Paradise

Coco Solo: The Other Side of Paradise

Coco Solo – sounds like a fun place to be, doesn’t it? The name makes me think of piña coladas by the beach, crazy pool parties…

The reality is far from this, however. The place where Senator John McCain was born, once a US Army base, has been abandoned, and is now a hovel where children play in water contaminated with raw sewage.

Here, Pastor Mikey, a resident of Coco Solo who has adopted six boys and set up a kitchen to feed the children, explains life on the edge, and imagines a youth using a .38 to hold people up – if he doesn’t hold people up, his family get no money, his children get no food. He asks ‘Would you put down your .38?’. Easy to say you would, I suppose, but I would do anything to feed my children…. He also explains how many of the girls are pregnant and having their own babies as young as twelve, creating a vicious cycle.

It is very hard to see any way of escape for these people living in their rubbish strewn plywood houses, so near, yet so far, from the Manhattan-by-the-sea skyscrapers of Panama City, where people (including myself and my family) attend frequent pool parties overlooking the Pacific.

An inspirational Coco Solo photography project, Cambio Creativo (Creative Change), encourages children and young people to explore their creative side by photographing the areas in and around their home. Here is a link to a Global Voices article about this project if you would like to find out more, and possibly buy a photo or two to help support this ravaged community.

Global Voices: Online Videos Expose Marginalized Community