Bocas del Toro Christmas Miracles 2020 

Another year passes, and it’s another Caribbean Christmas in the record books for Bocas del Toro. This year there were no boat parades or traditional public holiday parties; as the community stands in solidarity in the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There will be plenty of opportunities to celebrate in the future and this year we are grateful to have our health, as the infection rate of COVID-19 remains low on the islands. Though there were no large gatherings, the virus did little to stop our holiday cheer, and the community did its best to spread only the Christmas spirit.

Christmas is for Children!

Samantha Horn of the Bocas del Toro Rotary Club with a young girl and her Christmas present. Photo courtesy of Sophie Van Spaendonck

In 2017, the Buena Vista restaurant began an important community Christmas initiative to help Christmas gifts reach more and more children’s hands in the community. They called it “Operación: Navidad para Niños,” or Operation: Christmas for Children. Every year they would receive gently used or new toys to then give to deserving local families during the holiday season. Last year, the newly formed Bocas del Toro Rotary Club teamed up to create an even bigger impact. The 2020 Christmas season was going to be even more of a challenge because of the economic effects of the pandemic. Nonetheless, the community came through with over 100 gifts for needy families on Isla Colon.

Gifts were wrapped by members of the Bocas del Toro Rotary Club and Face of Bocas volunteer group, were sanitized under a UV light and then distributed on the morning of December 24th. Thanks to all who donated gifts and volunteered their time to this beautiful community effort; and a special recognition to the Buena Vista restaurant and Bocas del Toro Rotary Club for keeping this tradition alive, 4 years strong- especially at this time of crucial economical and social vulnerability. It is important to be able to share some moments during the pandemic where children can feel like children again. Receiving a new toy over the holidays has to be one of the most classic childhood moments ever.

A New TV For the Senior Citizen Center

Before the pandemic, the Bocas del Toro elderly home (“Casa de Asilo”) was regularly visited by a group known as the Friends of Casa de Asilo. Since March, it has not been appropriate for people to visit with the nature of the virus. Thus the elderly residents, or the Asilo Angels as we like to call them, have been more isolated than normal. They must be lonely. Then it was brought to the attention of the community that the residents of Casa de Asilo are also without television and could use a new form of entertainment.

Carla Rankin of Hotel Bocas del Toro is a long-time supporter of Casa de Asilo. She quickly rose to the occasion and made an important proposal to the community: to raise $600 for a new flat screen television and install a cable package for one year. Ted Hannig quickly pledged $300 on behalf of Bocas Barge SA, if the community would match the donation to complete the $600 necessary. Steve Bender then challenged 12 people to donate $25 each in order to raise the remaining funds for the one year of cable TV. The community response was overwhelming and the fundraising goal was surpassed, which is great because there is always plenty of need for our senior friends at Casa de Asilo. Perhaps a second TV set can now be purchased, for the residents with less mobility, mentioned Steve Bender. Thanks to the kind donations and organized effort of the community, the Asilo Angels will now be able to enjoy low-risk entertainment in the form of television programming; movies, news, sports, telenovelas- you name it! The residents of the local senior center are watching it and it’s all because of the kind hearts in Bocas del Toro.

We would like to send a special thank you to Carla Rankin, Steve Bender, Ted Hannig, Michael Ewinn, Sumayya McCarren, Donna Ray and Dave Hopper for your contributions and to Toby Braxton of Transportes Toby, for donating the shipping of the TV.

Personal Photo Albums: Even More Asilo Angel Love!

Tricia Kingsley is another friend of Casa de Asilo. She arrived to Bocas del Toro with her husband Craig and they soon became, well…more friends of Casa de Asilo. With the COVID situation, it hasn’t been time for the Friends of Case de Asilo to visit. It’s been a lonely, scary and tragic year for our Asilo friends. That’s why this act of photo scrap-booking kindness is just the best and so timely.

Tricia chose 400+ photos, among thousands of shots over the years, and carefully selected the perfect moments that truly represent the connections that were forged during these visits. She printed them at a Wisconsin Walgreens, smuggled them to Panama, only to place them all carefully in protective sleeves, to then to gift to the Asilo Angels. What an amazingly thoughtful gesture; an antidote for loneliness!

Bocas del Toro Mayor’s Office Marathon Deliveries

Trucks, boats, horseback…Mayor Emiliano Torres and team take whatever mode of transportation necessary to help the people of Bocas del Toro.

The Honorable Mayor Emiliano Torres, accompanied by his wife and work team, spent December 23rd and December 24th going around to the furthest reaches of the archipelago to help the communities experience a better Christmas. They delivered food donations for Christmas dinner, along with other general supplies, as part of a continued program of economic relief via municipal funds. They were also able to deliver these food donation bags to the Volunteer members of the Panama Red Cross, to reach even more members of the community via the Red Cross’ distribution.

Even better is that during these food deliveries, they were also able to give families the gifts of tools, shoes, clothes, toys and sports equipment, thanks to donations from good-hearted people in the area. Within the two days of marathon deliveries, Mayor Torres and his team visited the communities in the Punta Laurel district (Punta Laurel, Isla Popa 1 and 2, Piscina, Isla Tigre, Cayo de Agua), Isla Carenero, Banbusal, Mimitimbi, Boca del Drago and surrounding areas in the Bocas Del Toro township.

The community applauds Mayor Torres’ continued dedication to the needs of its most vulnerable members during these very difficult pandemic times.

Dolphin Bay Christmas Magic

Christmas miracles were also happening in the Dolphin Bay area. The lovely people from The No Name Bar  told us about a holiday gift drive that they were a part of organizing when we published an article about worthy Bocas del Toro causes for “Giving Tuesday.” We recently read that it was a success on the Facebook of The Dolphin Bay Hideaway:

“COVID may have prevented the annual Dolphin Bay Christmas party, but it did not prevent the delivery of personalized Christmas presents and sweets to over 130 local children. Thank you to so many generous individuals but ESPECIALLY to the Murillo/Garcia family – Kathrin, JA, Potine, Nathaly and Alejandra for fundraising, shopping, wrapping, organizing and delivering these awesome symbols of the Christmas spirit.”

Thank you for sharing. We love to hear stories like this! Kudos to José Murillo and the team at No Name Bar for keeping this lovely tradtion alive.

Healthy Holidays 2020

It’s been a rough year for everyone, but the community came together for these beautiful acts that made the holiday season that much better for so many. And these are just a few examples of which we are aware. We are certain there are others around the islands that took the initiative to help their neighbors during this year’s difficult holiday season.

If you ever hear about a story that deserves some recognition in the local newspaper, message us on Facebook, Instagram or send us an email to editor@thebocasbreeze.com. We love reporting positive stories that show the good in people and encourage others to be kind to each other.

Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous 2021 from Bocas del Toro, Panama!

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