Rufty Philanthropy: Vision To Serve In Panama

From time to time we like to share what the Rufty Homes staff is up to when we’re away from work. Kelly Nicholson and her husband, Jamie, recently returned from another mission trip to Panama, a country they also visited back in 2016. On this return trip to Panama, they participated in a mission to Puerto Armuelles. Read on for a Q&A with Kelly upon her return.

Q: You had a new destination in Panama this time, where is Puerto Armulles?

KN: It’s a town of about 25,000 people, located on Panama’s Pacific Coast and only about 5 miles from the border with Costa Rica to its north. Puerto Armuelles is 8 hours from Panama City by auto. Though, it took us longer to get there, because we managed to lose GPS signal, got stuck in the mud and had a flat tire.

Q: How many people participated in the mission this time?

KN: Our mission had a total of 19 people in our group with Truth for Today Medical Missions. Dr. Greg Waller and his wife, Linda, led the trip.

Q: What did you do with Truth for Today Medical Missions while in Panama?

KN: The organization is a non-profit rooted in Christianity that provides medical and vision care to those with the greatest need around the world. Over four days, we established a medical and vision clinic in Puerto Armuelles where we were able to provide glasses for 929 patients. The medical staff served 626 patients and filled 1,881 prescriptions.

Q: Can you tell us about how local churches got involved in outreach?

KN: A local pastor and his church partnered with us to meet one-on-one with many of the residents we served over those four days. This pastor was blind and was excited that we were offering glasses to those in need. He made sure the clinic was well-promoted on radio and elsewhere. In fact, hundreds of people were waiting each morning for the clinics to open. Even though the lines stayed long throughout the day, everyone was kind, patient, and appreciative of the care they received.

Q: Were you also able to return to the Panama town you visited last year?

KN: Our trip back to fly out from Panama City went much smoother, so we were able to stop in David, the location of our mission last year. It was such a treat as we had dinner at a local children’s home. Our group brought an American football to play catch with the older boys. We also brought frisbees to play with the younger girls and boys. The teen girls were initially a bit shy, but with a little encouragement they opened up and we had fun conversations.

Q: With your role at Rufty Homes, are you drawn to building styles on mission trips like this?

KN: Of course, everywhere we went, I enjoyed examining the homes and the styles of building in Panama. Most all structures are made of concrete block. Though, there was a definite American influence to the homes in parts of Puerto Armuelles. The presence of Chiquita's banana operations from 1928 to the early 2000s had an impact on residential and commercial development in that area.

It’s also interesting to see how simple buildings serve such utilitarian purposes in other parts of the world. An orphanage in David was housed in a large building that was built in a way that it could be easily expanded. The orphanage currently shelters children from abusive homes, and there are plans to expand it over the next few years. The result of this structure’s built-in flexibility is that it will allow them to help more area children.

Q: It's probably safe to say this was another “mission accomplished”?

KN: Indeed, it was an overall great trip and an enjoyable experience again in Panama.  The country has many expatriates from the U.S., and it’s a real blessing to serve on such a valuable philanthropy mission with people who are driven to do good in our world.

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