LAST MARCH, I WENT ON what felt like a trip of a lifetime: I
visited Panama to help Ripon native Father Wally Kasuboski for almost two weeks.
I helped construct a convent. I helped set a foundation for a neighbor’s house.
Then I came home. And, surprise, surprise, life went on for everyone in Panama
... but with many of the same problems as before. Safe drinking water sometimes
dried up; help was still needed, even if I was living in the comfort of my Ripon
That’s why, last month, another group of Riponites again visited Panama to
continue the work Father Wally does every day in the Wacuco and Torti area of
Panama. For many, it was a return trip; for others, their first. But by
everyone’s measure, it again was a success.
“WE DID GOOD — WE DID real good,” said Peter Kasuboski, Father Wally’s brother
and unofficial leader of the trip.
This visit, the group travelled 45 minutes daily to a location out in the jungle
where the fresh drinking water originates for thousands of Panamanians.
As Kim Holliday, who was on her second trip, put it, “The ... beauty, as we made
our climb, [was] breathtaking. The lush green foliage, the unnumbered colors of
hibiscus and the height of magnificent trees, [made us] realize the majestic
beauty a rain forest holds. This rain forest backdrop, [gave us] ample strength
for the work that lies ahead.” It’s at that location a dam will be installed;
the dam means that, even when the creek — from which water is drawn — dries up,
water still will be available. Last year, just after we got back for instance,
the creek dried up. No creek meant no water for the locals.
THE GROUP OF 15 DIDN’T come anywhere close to finishing the dam; the real dam
work will begin when a Rotary grant works its way toward the equator. For now,
it was just prep work. “We got by-pass lines in for the drinking water, so when
they start on the upper part of the dam, the water gets through,” Peter said.
“We got a lot accomplished, and even came back smiling.”
“The highlight of my trip was I drove a bulldozer,” Kim said, with an obvious
grin in her voice. But she added the whole visit went well. “It was a great
experience; I couldn’t be happier.” She said that even though she admitted the
trip included ample heavy lifting. “For me, this was a lot more strenuous, a lot
more physical work but more rewarding — maybe because it was so strenuous,” Kim
said. “How could we be upset if the rainforest was our backdrop?”
THIS WASN’T THE FIRST, or even second, trip to rural Panama from Riponites.
Visits have occurred roughly every other year for the past two decades. So it
won’t surprise anyone that another is in the planning stages for 13 months from
“The college wants to take a group next March,” Peter said, noting he might bow
out of that trip after going two years in a row. And, from what I saw and heard
from the residents of east-central Panama, they certainly will appreciate any
effort given. Because, while it’s just a two-week vacation for those who go, the
changes made could last a lifetime for local residents.