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Unexpected Moments of Magic Panama is dedicated to empowering individuals worldwide through the encouragement of self-exploration through social entrepreneurship, volunteerism, philanthropy and education as powerful forces for worldwide change. Be the change!

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Top Reasons to Volunteer in Panama with UMMP!

About Panama

Panama is the natural bridge that unites the Americas and has the greatest diversity of wildlife in Central America. Much of the land, over 1/3, is covered by National Parks with a variety of plants, animals, reptiles, birds, and a wide range of marine life. Panama offers the complete travel experience with activities such as: zip-lining through the jungle, hot springs, horseback riding, mountain biking, amazing hiking, bird watching, white water rafting, fishing, rock climbing, repelling, surfing, cave exploration, snorkeling, four-wheeling, volcano treks and much more! Above all else, the culture of people in Panama will amaze you and show you the kind of love and acceptance that will inspire you for a lifetime. They are the kind of selfless people that you can ask for directions and they will walk you to your location, even if they need to go the other way. Or the kind of people you meet on the bus and they invite you into their homes to share a meal after an hour of knowing you. The best way to describe them is open-hearted and they will make you not want to leave.

There are also diverse tribal groups that can be visited and give you the experience of walking back into time. You will see people living without electricity in their huts with their smiling faces painted with fruit juices and colorful patterns of creative expression for their clothing. While Panama is a country of great beauty and culture, it is still in need of services offered by socially driven volunteer organizations. Extreme poverty is apparent in many areas in Panama; some are unable to afford education, food, clean water, basic shelter and clothing. Many groups are working diligently to improve the situation for the country, but your assistance is greatly needed and much appreciated. The skills, knowledge and talents volunteers have to offer are in great demand and will be put to good use to better the overall situation in Panama. You can make a difference. Join us in creating a better tomorrow for the amazing people of Panama.

Geography
The valley of Boquete is located in the western highlands of Panama at 1,200 meters above the sea level. Nestled amongst the country's most mountainous region, this peaceful town is situated between the Caldera River and Baru Volcano. Surrounded by untouched tropical cloud forests, Boquete is just 1 and a half hour away from unspoiled white sand beaches in the Pacific and 4 hours from Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean, offering volunteers plenty of opportunities to hit the beach during the weekend to enjoy the warmth of the sun and get to do some of the most amazing scuba diving, snorkelling and surfing that they could imagine.

Boquete is safe, beautiful, inexpensive and exciting. It can be easily accessed by 1 hour daily flights from Panama City to David (the country's second largest city), and then a 30-40 minute car / 1 hour bus journey from here.

The "Valley of the Flowers and the Eternal Spring", is home to 20,000 habitants whose cultural roots can be traced to Native Indians, Spaniards, Europeans and North Americans among other ethnicities. Its first settlers came from other areas of Panama, as well as other countries such as Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and North America. All give shape to the cultural melting pot that Boquete is today. Most farms and houses still have architectural styles that are reminiscent of these other countries.

On the sheer mountains that surround the valley live the Ngöbe Bugles, an indigenous ethnic group who are highly skilled artisans, famous for their colourful chaquiras (beaded necklaces) and "nahuas", traditional dresses.

Boquete is considered the Ecotourism and Adventure Travel capital of Panama, you name it, Boquete has it! For extreme adrenaline, White Water River Rafting in the Chiriqui Viejo. For coffee lovers, Coffee Tours to coffee plantations and processing farms in Palmira, Palo Alto and Alto Quiel. To admire the beauty of the tropical cloud forest, Zip Line Canopy Tours in Palo Alto. For a challenging trek and a chance to view the both oceans from Panama's highest point, hike and camp to the top of the Baru Volcano. For the most incredible hike, challenge yourself to the Quetzals Trail footpath from Cerro Punta to the entrance of La Amistad National Park. For a relaxing afternoon, you can soak in the Caldera Hot Springs. For the western type, you can go Horseback Riding through Caldera's valleys. To admire nature's abundance go for a Bird Watching Tour. For extreme sports enthusiasts there is Rock Climbing and Rappelling at Los Ladrillos in Bajo Mono. During the weekend boat trips and island hoping tours can be arranged to Bolaños or Gamez Islands in the Golf of Chiriqui. Panama's best surfing is just a couple of hours away in the world famous town of Santa Catalina and the most amazing scuba diving spots are found at Isla Coiba, which is also in Chiriqui's Golf. The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro is only a 20-minute flight away from David, and offers a great taste of the Caribbean vibe.

If you like to dance or just chill out and socialize, from Boquete's nightlife you can choose several local bars: Zanzibar, La Cabaña, Bar Amigos and Coke Cola. Jazz concerts and theatre plays are also popular in town.

There is an array of restaurants in Boquete offering a wide selection of international dishes including: Mexican, Italian, Peruivan, American, Chinese, and of course delicious Panamanian. Just to mention a few: Big Daddy's Restaurant, Il Pomodoro, Machu Pichu, Antojitos Mexicanos, El Panamonte Bar and Restaurant, The Rock, Il Pianista and Delicias del Perú are amongst the best restaurants in Boquete.

This highly lush land has several splendid public gardens, like El Explorador and Mi Jardín es tu Jardín and it also home to a fascinating animal refuge.

Believe us, if you come to Boquete you may never want to leave...

David
David is situated on gently rolling plains about half way between the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Cordillera Talamanca Highlands to the North. On the ocean, a short drive away, you will find the city of Puerto Armuelles and the beaches of Lar Barqueta, Las Lajas and Playa Hermosa. David is the second most populous city in Panama. In David you can encounter several museums and cinemas where you can go to the movies, shopping malls and plenty of more dance clubs, bars, and restaurants. It is the capital of the Chiriqui Province and the centre of a rich farming region. The city’s heart is its fine central plaza, the Parque de Cervantes and is located 1.5km southwest of the highway.

David is located 38 kilometres (23 miles) away from Boquete. You can arrive in car between 30-40 minutes and by bus in one hour. It is also the halfway point between Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica.

Climate
The program location of Boquete enjoys a sunny cool mountain climate, comfortable all year around, considered nearly perfect, with temperatures ranging between 60° to 80° F (16° to 28° C). Thanks to its 3,600-foot elevation, the area's microclimates deduct 10 crucial degrees (Celsius) from the incessant and humid lowland heat.

Overall the climate in Boquete is pretty perfect, not too hot and not too cold. It is a beautiful rainforest, so there is plenty of sunshine and rain. The heavy rainy season starts in October and goes through November. The summer months with the least amount of rain start in mid December to the end of March.

In Boquete we have what we call Bajareque, and it is a beautiful mist that creates a plethora of rainbows throughout the blue skies.

David
For those seeking warmer weather, David, which is close to sea level, is the place for you! David is hot year round with less rainfall than Boquete. Temperatures only range between 78° to 82° F (26° to 28° C) all year round, with March through to May being the hotter months, and October through to January the cooler months.

For a more detailed report on the weather in Panama check out http://www.worldclimate.com

Development in Panama

Strong economic performance has reduced the national poverty level to 29% in 2008; however, Panama has the second most unequal income distribution in Latin America. Panama has extremes of wealth and poverty with the wealthiest 20 percent of Panamanians controlling more than 50 percent of the country's wealth, while the poorest 40 percent only control 12 percent.

Despite Panama's relatively high-income per capita (US$3,080 in 1997), poverty remains pervasive. Over one million people (37 percent of the population) live below the poverty line. Of these, over half a million (19 percent) live in extreme poverty. One-half of all Panamanian children are poor.

Volunteer Impact

Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged socio-economic groups within Panamanian communities, focusing primarily on orphaned children, animals, environmental projects and school children.

As a volunteer in Panama you can provide love, affection, education and support to orphaned children. You will help to improve education in schools ensuring children learn and flourish. Depending on your interests you can also contribute to recycling projects, working with the elderly, or handicapped and jewellery making. You will also provide education, inter-cultural exchange and understanding in Panamanian communities.

What else can I do in Panama?

Free from large crowds of tourists, visitors to Panama will enjoy discovering this beautiful country.

Panama has no shortage of stunning beaches, mountains and rain forests to explore, along with it's smattering of colonial towns home to exquisite handicrafts and the country's friendliest people.

Those looking to get further out and explore will enjoy trekking in the Parque Nacional Volcán Barú, home to Panama's only volcano.

Spanish Lessons

All volunteers will have the option of adding Spanish classes to enhance their volunteer experience for an additional fee with our private Spanish teachers or our partner schools.