San Cristobal Primary School Classrooms

Bocas del Toro, Panama

San Cristobal Primary School Classrooms

Hope Corps volunteers traveled to the San Cristobal community located on the island of Bocas del Toro, Panama to help build a preschool classroom for students who were previously using the cafeteria as their learning space. Our volunteers also worked with the local teachers and students on various school programs to provide quality education for these deserving students.


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Project Details

Minimum Fundraising Commitment: $2,500

Location: Isla Cristobal, Bocas del Toro, Panamá

Project: Cristobal School Expansion

Community Partner: Give and Surf

Community and Project Description:

A Surf For Life Project - The San Cristobal community is located south of Isla Colon in the Bocas Del Toro region. Located a fifteen minute boat ride from Bocas town, San Cristobal is a large island that has several different indiginous communities. The island houses rich marine environments, including coral reefs, lagoons, and mangroves, as well as a tropical rainforest. 

Currently, the small school located in the San Cristobal community consists of only 6 classrooms and a cafeteria for the 280 students as well as an additional 73 teens and adults enrolled in night school. This includes students from preschool to 9th grade, with the preschool and kindergarten students currently crammed in the open-air cafeteria with one teacher. The Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) will provide an additional teacher if classroom space is added. Preschool and kindergarten are provided for free to all students in Panama by MEDUCA but unfortunately these youngsters are often the last priority and so many children throughout the island start at a disadvantage compared to their mainland peers because they don't have access to quality early childhood education. 

As the economy continues to shift from agrarian to tourism, education is the key for these kids to have a brighter future.The additional classroom will offer room for another teacher and space for more students to receive education. Students can also be divided into age-appropriate classes, making teaching and learning much easier for everyone.

Our local partner, Give and Surf, is a locally embedded non-profit organization of volunteers providing sustainable empowerment to indigenous communities in the greater Bocas del Toro area. They focus on community development and increasing access to education. Check out this video to learn more.

New to the San Cristobal community, Give and Surf is working to create educational opportunities for these students. In addition to constructing the additional classroom for the preschool, volunteers will spend parts of the days working with the local teachers and students on various school programs. Volunteers will be fully immersed in the community and highly engaged in the project.

Travel to Bocas Del Toro, Panama:

Volunteers should be prepared to get wet and muddy and to experience a few choppy boat rides getting to and from the project site and commuting between the islands for community service work. Panama City can be reached within a 7-10 hour flight from most locations in North America.  From Panama City airport (PTY), volunteers will take a 30-minute taxi across town to the airport of Marcus A. Gelabert (also called Albrook) to catch a 45-minute commuter flight via Air Panama to Bocas Town (BOC.)  There are only two flights per day that fly into BOC, and it might be necessary to spend the first night in Panama City. The main island of Isla Colon (“Bocas Town”) is colorful, offbeat and inviting with a mix of historic architecture, great food, nightlife and beautiful ocean views. Boat taxis are the most common means of transportation, and commuting becomes an adventure in itself.

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