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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Liliana Hincapie receives Medal of Merit for advancing disability rights in Colombia

By: Jasmin Herrera, Youth Engagement Intern and Sofia Luna, Marketing and Membership Development Intern (español a continuación)

Liliana receiving the 2015 Medal of Merit
Liliana Hincapie Salazar has always had a passion for volunteering, specifically working with people with disabilities. So when she became a preschool teacher in 1981, she took responsibility over the school’s special education program.

Shortly after Liliana began working at the school, however, the special education program was shut down due to lack of resources. After talking to distressed parents who were concerned about their children’s education, Liliana took it upon herself to find a place where the seven children she’d been teaching could continue to learn. When she was unable to find an existing organization for children with multiple disabilities, Liliana started her own – and la Fundación para Limitaciones Multiples (FULIM) was born.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Look Inside the Haitian Coffee Industry

By: Rebecca Lamb, Communications Intern, Farmer-to-Farmer

Coffee is a beloved beverage in the U.S. It’s hard to turn a corner in most major American cities without encountering the aromas from a nearby Starbucks. But while a majority of Americans consume coffee every day, many give little to no thought to where their coffee actually comes from.  Today, we’ll take you on a journey to discover the faces and places behind the coffee industry in Haiti.

Coffee is imported from all over the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean. The coffee sector in Haiti reached its peak in the 1960s, but has been losing importance for the past 50 years. While coffee from Haiti has long been exported, the quality of coffee in certain regions has not been up to international standards. Haitian coffee is facing considerable agricultural challenges with pests (including CBB and rust); the infrastructure for processing coffee is often in disrepair; and evaluation scores are frequently low. Additionally, many Haitian cooperatives and producers have a poor understanding of quality standards for export.

As the Haitian coffee industry seeks to grow, the infrastructure of traditional farms means that producers and cooperatives don't have the necessary market information or knowledge of their own production capacity. There is an opportunity to convert the traditional coffee process to an industrial one that could revitalize the industry and give the producers control of a larger portion of the value chain.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Full Circle - “Círculo Completo”

By: Chantay Thompson, Teacher, Panama Teacher Match

It’s amazing how life can often come full circle, and my experience as one of the inaugural fellows of Panama Teacher Match proved just this. This past winter, I embarked on a journey to be accepted into Panama Teacher Match, a dynamic new program of teaching English to Spanish-speaking students in Panama. My interest in this program was fueled by two major ideals: my passion for my culture and country (being of Panamanian descent); and my love for my profession of teaching. 

Once I received the exciting news of being accepted to Panama Teacher Match, I informed my biggest cheerleader, my father, who was raised in Colón, Panamá. I was also ecstatic to tell him that I requested to be placed in Colón so that I could potentially provide service to his hometown!

As I prepared for this journey, I was extremely nervous but I unsure of what triggered my nerves. I'd spent summers home in Panama growing up, and have several family members living there, but the idea of teaching abroad still gave me anxiety. As the school year ended for me stateside in Brooklyn, New York where I teach middle school, I prepared to head towards this bright new teaching opportunity in Panama – full of nerves and anxiety!

After the first day of my placement I excitedly sent a picture of me back to my sister in Brooklyn who shared it with our father. The picture was taken in front of the backdrop of "Escuela Pablo Arosemena." My father took a close look at the picture and screamed with excitement – the school in the photo was the same school my father attended as a child! When I spoke to my father that evening, his excitement for me started to calm my nerves. We were all in disbelief! My father was so proud, and I was extremely grateful. I was even more thrilled that this was the same school that educated my aunts and uncles. What an honor!

My anxiety eased up and my pride stood much taller the next few days as I came to work. Knowing that these hallways and classrooms housed all of my close relatives during their primary years was an amazing feeling. This experience has been extremely rewarding thus far. The smiling faces of my Kinder, First and Second grade students that greet and hug me daily, their eagerness to learn English, and the idea that I’m teaching in the school where my father, aunts and uncles learned is so very humbling. As I teach daily the songs and chants that help the students start to build their English vocabulary, I can't help but think of my father, as a small child, in his school uniform sitting in one of the same exact rooms that I teach in! What a joy!

It's extremely surreal that recent conversations with my aunts and uncles center around what the school was like decades ago, as compared to now. That's such a special factor of my experience here as an educator. My work here not only brings me joy, but coincidentally keeps my family connected as well.

I’m very fortunate to have family whom I can visit often during the evenings and the weekends. It has become evident that this is much more than a summer teaching abroad for me. It is a summer back home with family and friends, and a summer encouraging students in Colón, Panamá to be as amazing as they can possibly be!

Panama Teacher Match is a program of the U.S. Embassy in Panama, implemented by Partners of the Americas.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

100K Strong and the REM Factor in Social Entrepreneurship

By: Steve Vetter, President & CEO, Partners of the Americas

Steve Vetter with representatives from Universidad de la Salle,
Universidad EAFIT and Universidad de Caldas at the Second
Hemispheric Workshop on 100,000 Strong in the Americas
While at the Second Hemispheric Workshop on 100,000 Strong in the Americas I participated in a series of “What Works” sessions and listened intently as international educators who had both won or lost in our open competitions shared more about their proposals to increase the flow of students within the hemisphere. What I found striking was the level of intensity and meaning that they gave to the development of the proposals and how important it was to them to win one of these small $25,000 grants.

Over many years of grant making at the Inter-American Foundation, I followed this same phenomena with special interest, trying to understand always which proposals had the best ideas and best chances for success. The issues of sustainability, growing the programs to scale and the simple issue of “doability” were ever-present in our grant making. With over 25 years to observe the success and failure of those many grant investments, I developed my own sense of what to look for as the basis for judging and allocating scarce grant resources.

Three elements stand out: Risk, Effort and Meaning (REM). The REM Factor can be explained in this way:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Baseball Exchange Promotes Cultural Understanding and Friendship

By: Dr. Gary Linn, President of Partners of the Americas' Tennessee Chapter

The Santo Domingo Stars - a baseball team of young men from the Dominican Republic aged 11 to 13 years old  - visited Lebanon and Nashville, Tennessee from May 27 to June 1st. While there, the team had the opportunity to play in the Tennessee Baseball Players Association (BPA) tournament. This was the first step in a baseball exchange organized by the Dominican Republic and Tennessee Partners, who plan to also bring Cumberland University's baseball team to the Dominican Republic this November to play against local Dominican Teams.

The Santo Domingo Stars - a team composed of twelve players and two coaches - had a full schedule in during their time in Tennessee. Their trip included three baseball competitions, numerous batting and fielding practices at Cumberland University, a visit to the Nashville Zoo, attending a Nashville Sounds (AAA) game (fireworks included!), and a reception at the Lebanon Country Club. During the
four nights spent in Lebanon, the Stars were hosted by families of Tennessee baseball players.