Nonprofits and Other Great Causes to Support in Bocas del Toro
Nonprofits in Bocas del Toro are doing amazing work to better the social, cultural, environmental, educational and health conditions of our community. Here we are proud to present many of the entities that are promoting these wonderful initiatives; a list which includes nonprofits, non-government organizations, and volunteer/service clubs, as well as some worthy causes being promoted by for-profit businesses. Whatever the precise organizational structure of these particular benefactors be, we have selected only bonafide Bocas Breeze approved causes to get behind.
November 30, 2021 is Giving Tuesday, which is described as “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” We encourage our readers to learn more about these organizations on this day… and support them!
This page will also serve as a permanent resource to connect our readers with the year-round and seasonal charitable campaigns that seek to improve life in the beloved islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama. If you don’t see your favorite Bocas del Toro noble cause listed here, please suggest it to us so we can add it!
The Floating Doctors is a medical relief team dedicated to serving the Ngäbe communities in the archipelago. The group of medical volunteers deploy all 52 weeks of the year to low income areas and the villages that are geographically far removed from access to medical care. They rotate communities and reach each of 24 communities once every three months; timing which is vitally important to care for chronic illnesses and provide appropriate family planning tools.
They are able to provide free acute and preventative health care services through volunteer medics, sponsorships and donations.
Floating Doctors is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the United States, which means donations are tax deductible for U.S. citizens, and is also registered as a Non-Government Organization in Panama.
Support their efforts by donating to their Vision Campaign. With a goal to raise $2,000 to purchase and ship an eyesight testing kit along with 550 glasses and interchangeable lenses from Global Vision 2020. This kit will provide customized eye-wear for our patients and, with a brief training, gives all of our non-medical supporters a way to volunteer in this life-changing capacity.
Bocas Surf Crew
Bocas Surf Crew is a nonprofit organization based in Bocas del Toro, Panama. They develop and coordinate mentorship programs for children and teens focused on spreading environmental knowledge, discipline, creativity, respect, and love. The organization welcomes participants from all walks of life to our program in an effort to unite our community over a shared love of waves.
Bocas Surf Crew’s mission is to make sport, education, and environmental awareness accessible to the children and young people of the community and to equip them with the essential life skills necessary to take the world head-on. Their vision is to expand to the far reaches of the archipelago and bring the benefits of their mentorship programs to those who need it most, empowering participants and building the foundation for an initiative that is self-sustaining.
Unidos Por Bocas
Walking around Bocas Town you will notice 100+ public trash bins; each sponsored by local businesses and residents who all love Bocas del Toro (and love it with a green heart). Unidos Por Bocas is the nonprofit organization comprised of a small dedicated group of volunteers who organized, fundraised, designed, produced, and installed these bins. Now they are busy opening a recycling center in Playa Istmito (the location that was formerly the Bocas Brewery).
There are sponsorships still available for 2022. The yearly sponsorship is $120 and the money goes to fund the maintenance of the bins and costs associated to the creation of the new recycling center. Support Unidos por Bocas by sponsoring a bin and proudly display your name, your business or a fun message on one of the Unidos Por Bocas public bins installed around town. Also, get in touch with Unidos Por Bocas for volunteer opportunities with their new recycling center operation.
Email Unidos Por Bocas for sponsorship and volunteer opportunities: firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Tiburones de Isla Colón Youth Boxing Program
“Don’t complain about delinquency and crime if you don’t give the kids something constructive to do,” local boxing federation president Manuel Sanjur once said in an interview with The Bocas Breeze. Boxing -and sports in general- teach young people many valuable lessons and create positive habits that can serve them on the road to a successful adulthood.
Los Tiburones de Isla Colon is a group of young athletes from the community that train almost every evening in the back of the municipal gym on 1st street. They have been able to host two tournaments so far this year and have competed in one in Changuinola. They have been lucky to receive some donations of equipment from the business community; however they generally operate with volunteer trainers and very limited resources. They can use your support!
Contact president Manuel Sanjur to get involved. Mr. Sanjur prefers material donations as opposed to cash, so get in touch and see what their specific needs are. Call or WhatsApp +507 6295-9559 (Manuel Sanjur).
Give and Surf
Give and Surf has been a force of constant and growing educational support and community building in Bocas del Toro since 2011. They have built schools, community centers and cafeterias; provided school supplies, scholarships, enriching after-school programs in addition to providing thousands of school lunches every year. With the pandemic canceling school and the state of national emergency brought on by Covid-19, Give and Surf shifted its focus for a while to support the food security needs of the archipelago.
As of March 2021, almost all of Give and Surf’s programs have been reopened. With the public schools being closed, it has been the only source of education for some students. Whether they are helping to feed communities in need or enriching educational pursuits, Give and Surf gives us so many reasons to support. This is a non-profit which is dually registered in the US as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and a Panamanian NGO.
Support Give and Surf on their current fundraising campaign: https://www.mightycause.com/story/Givingdec2021
Prepare yourself for the invasion of small army of high quality, prefabricated, four string soldiers to take over the hearts and minds of children and adult children in the community: it’s ukulele time!
Why Ukuleles? The uke is one of the world’s friendliest instruments to children and complete beginners. Practically everything about the ukulele––its small size, lightweight frame and easily pressed-down strings––makes it one of the easiest instruments to play on the planet. If you’re looking for a starter instrument for a young child or just something fun to pick up yourself, the ukulele could be your best bet!
Thanks to the fine people of Casa del Parque, Random Art Bocas, and a team of teachers, musicians, artists and patrons of the arts, high quality ukeleles are available for purchase and each purchase goes to support music education and the performing arts in Bocas del Toro.
A $100 donation provides a quality instrument and $50 in lessons from a local teacher. Purchasing an instrument for $100 from us provides $50 in support to the teachers in our area. Lessons for kids and/or instruments for the classroom setting. The donation is tax deductible.
Get in touch with Larry Michael Robertson on Facebook to participate and see instruments for yourself at the Random Art Cafe.
Operación: Navidad Para Niños
In 2017, the team at Buena Vista restaurant began a Christmas drive so Santa can visit even more children with gifts on the island. The Bocas del Toro Rotary Club joined the effort in 2019. This year Buena Vista and Rotary Club are teaming up again to make the 5th annual Navidad Para Niños the biggest one yet!
Everyone is welcome to donate new or gently used children’s toys – in excellent condition – to be wrapped and gifted to local children. Cash donations will be used to buy new gifts. Popular gifts are stuffed animals, sports equipment, books in Spanish, crayons and coloring books. Volunteers are eagerly invited to help wrap and deliver presents.
The Rotary Club will host a holiday gift wrapping party on Tuesday, December 21, from 4pm – 6pm at Buena Vista restaurant.
Cash and gift donations can be made every day at Buena Vista, 8:30am-9pm.
Rotary Club Bocas del Toro
Speaking of the Rotary Club, did you know that it is the largest and longest running service club in the world? Though the Bocas del Toro club is new (founded in 2018), it has been in Panama since 1919.
“Service Over Self” is the motto and group is engaged in 7 areas of focus: peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy and economic and community development.
If you are interested in getting involved with our local Rotary Club, get in touch! They are always looking for support on their service projects, help from volunteers and dynamic new members. Email email@example.com to get involved and stay tuned to their upcoming events on Facebook and Instagram.
Papá Gato Animal Welfare
Papá Gato Animal Welfare is a newly formed volunteer group who has made a HUGE impact in just a few months of activity. The group’s focus is to provide spay/neuter clinics and general veterinary services to street animals and pets of low income families. The group’s volunteers also foster homeless animals and actively find them “forever homes” and they regularly feed the feral street animals that would prefer to remain undomesticated.
Papá Gato is always looking for volunteers for their clinics, especially bilingual Spanish speakers to assist with communication with the local families. The group also has a hotline WhatsApp group that requires volunteer assistance. Volunteer with Papá Gato or support their efforts financially by donating in Bocas Town at Tequila Republic, Bocas Island Express and The Scent Shop or send a donation on-line via PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasteless World is a group of young, passionate, motivated individuals who are bringing innovative solutions to environmental problems facing our community (and the world at large). Their main focuses are improving waste management and the eradication of the invasive lionfish species.
The group engages in regular land and underwater clean-ups. They recently cleared a mangrove island that was being used as an improvised (illegal) dumping spot and created signage to raise awareness about penalties and the environmental implications of leaving trash in the mangroves. They hosted a lionfish tournament at La Neta Caribe and lionfish tasting dinner at Skully’s.
The team is currently collecting recyclables (everything but cardboard) at their headquarters, the Wasteless Warehouse (behind the airport) from 9am to 5pm Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Their main project is creating a recycling workshop where post-consumer plastics can be recycled into artificial lumber to be used for building projects. This will, in turn, keep plastics out of our environment and reduce the need for traditional timber to be harvested.
Founder Tom Wright suggested the call-to-action for their section to be “to consume less, reuse/repair/recycle more and to eat more lionfish!” Wasteless World is always looking for volunteers to help further their cause and the organization is graciously accepting donations on their website to support material and labor costs (for the menial tasks in which no one will volunteer for free). Learn more and support them here: https://wastelessworld.com/
The Darklands Foundation
The Darklands Foundation works closely with the natives of Bocas del Toro with the mission of “lifting the indigenous population out of poverty through integrated agriculture in the rainforest, human development, education, and rainforest preservation.”
They have had their jungle boots on the ground, staying very present throughout the pandemic and its recovery. Their current focuses are “food sovereignty and food gardens program to elevate food proposition, healthy habits and set in place the building blocks for a circular economy activity for and with our Ngabe partners…AIDS /HIV awareness campaign and supporting indigenous women seminars and workshops about women’s rights, women’s economic and reproductive health, and our Bocas cacao producers!”
Learn more about The Darklands Foundation on their website and social media channels and support them with a donation via PayPal: email@example.com
AAMVECONA (Asociación de amigos y vecinos de la costa y la naturaleza)
AAMVECONA (“The association of friends and neighbors of the coast and nature” in Spanish) is an organization dedicated to the protection of leatherback turtles and the West Indian manatees. The organization has 22 years of volunteering with foreign and local students, in addition to serving visitors who want to learn more about the biodiversity that inhabits the San San Pond Sack area. This area is recognized as one of the RAMSAR sites on planet earth. The organization is located on the road that goes to Guabito; 5 meters before the San San bridge.
If you would like to collaborate with AAMVECONA, you can help with donations of paint, paintbrushes, water collection tanks, wood, mattresses, cabin skeletons, zinc.
For more information, contact Erudipcia Pineda +507 6495-3279. Donations preferably in materials.
Soroptimist Bocas Islas
Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization providing women and girls with access to education and training needed to achieve economic empowerment.
For the past two years, Soroptimist Bocas Isla has donated school supplies to the Buena Esperanza young ladies. This year Soroptimist Bocas Isla gave the Buena Esperanza ladies 12 tablets in order to expand their research capabilities for school projects.
In January 2022, Soroptimist Bocas Isla is providing two workshops teaching the ladies how to discover their dreams, careers, create achievable goals, surpass obstacles, change failure into success, balance stress, and put their dreams into actions.
How can you help? There are many ways you can help women and girls live their dreams. Through donation, your gift reaches women and girls facing extreme obstacles. Another option is volunteering. Volunteers are the heartbeat of Soroptimist.
Together we can help unlock the potential of women and girls.
Contact Delmira Brueggemann, President of Soroptimist Bocas Isla, for more information: +507 6371-1772 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Back Bay Project
Panama is Central America’s fastest growing tourism market with Bocas del Toro being one of the most popular destinations. Tourism is estimated to be 90% of the local economy of the islands of Bocas del Toro, therefore being the number one employment opportunity for native Bocatoreños.
Identifying the need for higher learning, The Back Bay Project opened a nonprofit hospitality school in 2021. In the pilot program they were able to provide professional training for 12 local students with coursework in English as a second language, Spanish language refinement, bar and restaurant training, and culinary arts and permaculture. As of November 5, three of their pilot program students have already successfully gained new employment!
Club de Leones de Bocas del Toro Isla
The Bocas del Toro Isla Lions Club seeks to improve the quality of life of less fortunate Bocas del Toro islanders, to help others in need and to teach young people and adults to enjoy the benefits that nature has given to our Island, preserving the Caribbean environment that surrounds us. The mission of the Lions Club is to serve those most in need, their pillars of service being hunger mitigation, eyesight, diabetes, pediatric cancer and environment.
Their current focus is a project called “Una Carita Feliz Para Navidad,” or A Happy Face For Christmas. The idea is to provide gifts and holiday parties to the children of a community, the ones who may never have received a toy at Christmas time.
Donations of gifts can be brought to the residence of the teacher Miriam Humphries, President of the Bocas Isla Lions Club, on 11th street next to the upholstery workshop (across from the cemetery) or by depositing at the club account in the name of Maritza Smith, Banco Nacional, 40004798027 or by yappy at +507 6441-9726 and send your receipt to the WhatsApp of the same number. Volunteers are always welcome to join the Lions Club activities.
Bocas Rainforest Reforestation Initiative (BRRI)
Officially launched this year, the Bocas Rainforest Reforestation Initiative founders have been responsible for planting tens of thousands of trees in the archipelago and adjacent mainland of Bocas del Toro…and they are not about to stop! The reforestation group has been engaging in monthly tree planting outings since June.
BRRI takes tree saplings of indigenous tree species with the goal of reforesting areas back to a more native balance in benefit of the ecosystems of the area. “There is ample opportunity for low budget, low commitment work that makes a huge impact (albeit down the road),” BRRI co-founder Brian Wilcox told us in a recent interview.
You can help by donating tree saplings, plant bags, soil, tools or providing land for their tree planting outings. Volunteers are always welcome. Cash donations for transportation, volunteer snacks and water is also always greatly appreciated. Contact BRRI on Facebook or email to get involved and support their efforts: email@example.com.
Sandy Paws Animal Sanctuary
Shana Dominique is a young lady with a huge heart and just as big of an idea: to build an animal sanctuary in Bocas del Toro. She shared her idea on a local Facebook forum “Loving and caring for animals is a big part of my life since I was little. Covid gave me a lot of time to think and the final push. I will build a nonprofit animal sanctuary in Bocas. Street animals will have a safe place to recover while we look for a forever home”
Shana outlined her plan in the same post: (1) Become an official nonprofit organization in Panama. Shana hopes to find a lawyer that does not charge too much for this work. (2) Buy the land. She is hoping the city has a cheap plot of land she can buy, lease or rent. (3) Start building Sandy Paws; an animal sanctuary for Bocas del Toro.
She has since turned 18 is eligible to be a legal representative of an organization and has acquired the funds to be able to process the legal fees for the nonprofit organization. She is now looking for land options and studying existing animal sanctuaries around the world. She has been working part-time jobs and saving for her sanctuary dream.
Planet Rehab is dedicated to protecting the planet’s ecosystems, propagating endangered species, and providing education on the current challenges that our planet faces. One of their current campaigns is a reforestation effort, “Just One Tree,” where they seek to plant and protect Almendro trees in the Bocas del Toro region, a very important rainforest tree endangered because of its use in the lumber trade.
In December 2020, Planer Rehab introduced its “Native Farm Survival Kit” program which is aimed at not only helping the environment but also assisting Ngäbe families in our community by providing each family with a “Starter Farm Kit” which will include fruit trees and plants that are high in nutrition, easy to grow and with excellent production rates. They were able to serve Buena Esperanza in May 2021, San Cristobal in June and are scheduled to deliver to the community of Salt Creek in December 2021.
They can always use volunteers and donations of materials (inquire about their current needs by messaging them directly). Donate directly to their efforts on their website.
Friends of Casa de Asilo
For years there was an elderly home on Isla Colon right on the water known as the “Asilo de Ancianos,” but the residents were evacuated in 2019 due to flooding. The new facility is on mainland Bocas del Toro province, in Rambala, Chiriqui Grande district. The folks there get pretty lonely and are often under-served by the state.
What members of the Bocas del Toro community and the “Friends of Casa de Asilo” volunteer group do is provide significant and meaningful support for the residents; food, medicine, hygienic supplies, furniture, repairs to the facilities, and medical care from The Floating Doctors. The Friends of Casa de Asilo have continually advocated for the residents to the government when they were neglected and under-served. The volunteers have also made regular visits with special foods, treats, live music and entertainment.
We’re not sure exactly what the current needs are, but check into the Facebook group or contact The Bocas Breeze if you would like to do something nice for the residents of the elderly home, also known affectionately as “The Asilo Angels.”
Nonprofits from the Bocas del Toro Hope Spot Team
In 2019, Bocas del Toro was named as a Mission Blue Hope Spot. True lovers of ocean conservation can support some of the nonprofit organizations that make up the Bocas del Toro Hope Spot team: Caribbean Coral Restoration, Mother of Corals, MarAlliance, The Sea Turtle Conservancy and The School for Field Studies.
Caribbean Coral Restoration
With the rising temperature of the oceans and increased pollution, mankind has witnessed widespread devastation to our coral reef systems one lifetime. Caribbean Coral Restoration is a Bocas del Toro organization fighting the good fight to preserve and regenerate our precious marine fauna.
Founder Doug Marcy and his team build coral trees and coral nurseries which regenerate coral reefs in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. Not only is their work a huge environmental asset to the community, it provides a positive social impact. Day-to-day activities provide work for the native Bocatoreño population. CCR’s apprenticeship, education and conservation programs aim to provide long-term opportunities for the local population.
Support the work of Caribbean Coral Restoration by donating on their website.
Mother of Corals
Mother of Corals is a wonderful nonprofit promoting ocean conservation and healthy coral reefs in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Quoted from the website: “At Mother of Corals, we provide the tools and training to enable coastal communities to create, maintain, and share artificial coral reef habitats with the public, in order to increase their environmental and economic sustainability.”
Support their cause by donating on their website: https://motherofcorals.org/
MarAlliance is an international member of the Bocas del Toro Hopespot team. The mission is to “explore, enable, and inspire positive change for threatened marine wildlife, their critical habitats and dependent human communities.” MarAlliance works with coastal communities in efforts of ocean conservation, sustainable fishing habits and marine science education. Your donation goes a long way toward protecting threatened marine wildlife, their habitats and dependent communities.
School For Field Studies
Another member of the Bocas del Toro Hope Spot team is The School For Field Studies. They are a non-profit 501(c)3 education provider that provides “educational programs that explore the social and ecological dimensions of the complex environmental problems faced by their local partners, contributing to sustainable solutions in the places where they live and work.” This is taken from their website’s mission statement. Having the pleasure to observe their tenure in Bocas del Toro and the way their faculty and students have interacted with the community, this statement rings very true. A donation to The School For Field Studies is a contribution to the next generation who will be in charge of tackling society’s biggest challenges.
SFS has a community engagement program where they support educational initiatives such as teaching English, swimming lessons and providing help for budding entrepreneurs from indigenous communities.
Learn more about School for Field Studies on their website, participate in their educational programs and consider supporting their initiatives with a donation.
Sea Turtle Conservancy
The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. An international nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the organization was founded in 1959 to save sea turtles from imminent extinction through rigorous science-based conservation.
As Bocas del Toro is home to four different species of sea turtles (green sea turtle, loggerhead , leatherback , and hawksbill sea turtle), it is an important branch of the group’s operation. Locally STC engages in sea turtle education in the schools and in the community, as well as research, habitat protection and conservation efforts while providing employment opportunities. Where traditionally turtle hunting was previously a threat, STC aims to employ community members from coastal areas to instead monitor and record sea turtle activity, protect their nests and lead sea turtle nesting watch expeditions with tourists. Providing income opportunities in the area of conservation and research is important to mitigating the threat of illegal turtle hunting and egg poaching.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy’s research, education, conservation and habitat protection efforts have been vital to the world’s sea turtle populations. In Panama, their partnership with the indigenous communities has been transformative. The organization also operates in Costa Rica and the USA, so if you want to make sure your donation benefits Bocas del Toro and the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca specifically, write “Panama ” in the comment section of the donation. Click here to support the current efforts of the Sea Turtle Conservnacy.
***Don’t see your favorite Bocas del Toro nonprofit, volunteer/service group or charitable cause? We are still adding some, but feel free to give us ideas in the comments or on our social media posts related to this article @thebocasbreeze***