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Supporting migrants in Panama: an update on the project

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Isa, Julio and their son Ignacio: one of the families that benefited from the project. Panama, April 2020

You may remember that some weeks ago, I issued a personal appeal, in which I pleaded for helping me in providing support to economic migrants and refugees in Panama, whose livelihoods opportunities were compromised or literally wiped off, due to the economical shock that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.

For the sake of transparency, I thought that I would post here some updates on how the project is going. Here comes the letter that I sent out to friends, who had helped me in sourcing the funds to vulnerable migrants in Panama City:

Dear All,
 
I hope that the email finds you well!

In the attachment, you will find the latest update on the income and expenditure of our Panamanian project. You will have seen that we have already managed to support our migrant friends with nearly $4,900, and that we have together collected a bit over $5,800. I am so amazed by your support! Thank you so much!
 
I realise that one may argue that helping few people, given the scale of the issues that are being experienced, is not a lot. I, however, believe that we have managed to help 9 households from going into some major trouble in their lives. For nearly two months, we have provided means for them to get food, and in some cases pay for accommodation costs too! On top of everything else, there are few of our friends that received ‘one off’ payment, as they really needed a bit of support too. I think that you can all be very proud of yourselves to have extended your helping hand to people that need it. I do not want to sound pompous, but I really think you are all remarkable human beings! THANK YOU!
 
We have just received news from the media that Panama is starting its process of ‘return to normality’. It is meant to start on 13
th May, just two days away from now, and is divided to 6 phases. The first phase is not changing lots of things yet, so we are far of being out of the woods, but something has started to change. We do not have dates on when the following phases will be introduced, but I will keep you all updated.
 
Then, while I think that some of our migrant friends will be able to slowly start getting independent as things gradually open up, I am sure that some will need the support for a little longer. I am monitoring everyone from our ‘beneficiary’ list to ensure that I understand how much support they may need, and when they could become independent. At this stage (my own thoughts), I think some of the men will be able to get back to some activities earlier, as their jobs may be in demand sooner (guards at the parking lots, handymen, cleaner in private apartments). I am however more worried at the employment opportunities of some of the ladies from the list. They normally work in hotels as cleaning staff. The tourism has collapsed and will not recover anytime soon, I fear. I think, they may find it more difficult to become more independent. Everyone is at risk, but I think women are exposed to more threats and are likely to be pushed more easily to coping strategies that we would prefer not to see. From what I understand, going back home to the countries of origin is not a viable option for any of our friends. They are in Panama, as they needed to flee from oppression, maltreatment and extreme poverty from Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua and Honduras. Bottomline is that even if things are very difficult for them here in Panama, my take is, they are still better off here than they may be in their places of origin (they all come from extremely poor backgrounds).
 
So, once again, thank you for being so supportive. I am grateful, and very, very proud of having you as friends!
 
Sending warmest regards! Please do stay well and do send news, when you can,
Roman