Since 2006, Forum Foundation has helped to improve the lives of the children and families it serves by offering the following programs.
As society becomes more dependent on new technology, increased attention is being given to computer literacy, which has become an essential skill for a successful professional career.
The computer installation program is among the first projects that Forum Foundation undertook in conjunction with Instituto Profesional y Técnico José de Los Reyes Vásquez in the town of Caimito.
The community in Caimito came together to make this initial program a success, building tables and desks to form its first computer lab.
The addition of computers has not only benefited students but working adults as well: Weekend computer classes are offered in each school that Forum Foundation supports. Computer classrooms and courses have been established in Caimito, San Miguel Centro, Bajo Grande, Pajonal, and Chigoré.
While 94% of urban Panamanian’s enjoy access to reliable electricity, only 71% of Panama’s rural residents are able to rely on the electrical infrastructure, leaving roughly 400,000 people in the dark, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2012 World Outlook Report.
For example, most students attending school in Bajo Grande had never seen a computer before, much less taken a computer course. Forum Foundation was eager to help, but a lack of electricity on site presented serious challenges.
However, what the school lacked in reliable energy was made up for by a strong and active Parent-Teacher Association and a well-respected and effective school director. Forum Foundation, in conjunction with these actors and the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, worked to solve the energy issue by installing solar panels to support a computer lab in the school.
UTP worked tirelessly to design and execute the plans for the installation, while the community supported the project through fund-raising and volunteering. In 2011, it was completed.
Many students in rural Coclé have very limited access to transport services, leaving some with a 2+ hour walk to school in all weather conditions. To eliminate barriers to school attendance, the Forum Foundation purchased a bus in 2009, which helped to carry nearly 500 students to and from school in Coclé Province.
In 2011 Forum Foundation expanded its transportation service to schools by partnering with I.P.T. La Pintada to refurbish a bus for the students attending school in that town. With this addition, Forum Foundation supported a further 600 students.
In some areas, public transportation is the only option. In these instances, Forum Foundation has awarded individual transportation scholarships to students in need of assistance.
Since 2009, more than 3,000 students from eight different schools have benefited from Forum Foundation’s transportation programs.
In some cases, students need to travel so far to attend school that simply providing transportation for them is not enough. In recognition of this, rural high schools frequently have dormitories for students who are unable to make the daily commute. However, many parents are unable to fund the costs associated with dorm life, including meals at school. Student assistance then becomes essential.
Forum Foundation provides subsidies for students whose parents cannot afford to have their children live in a school dormitory. In 2012 alone Forum Foundation funded room and board for 130 students at two high schools, none of whom would have been able to attend high school otherwise.
Over 16 percent of all children in Panama under five suffer from some form of malnutrition. The incidence of malnutrition mirrors the geographic and ethnic patterns of poverty and is greatest in rural, mountainous areas.
Disparities in education, as in most countries, are key causes of poverty, malnutrition, and inequality in Panama. Education is therefore a crucial elevator.
In an effort to address theses issues among student populations, Forum Foundation began meal assistance programs in 2010. By the end of 2012 over 400 students had benefited from meal scholarships.
But Forum Foundation discovered another issue: Many school kitchens were not equipped with modern appliances. Parent volunteers frequently prepared food over open wood fires, creating serious health complications.
The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from cooking is the fifth worst risk factor for disease in developing regions and causes roughly two million premature deaths per year as well as countless early-onset cataract problems. Moreover, many fall sick with illnesses that could readily be prevented with the adoption of clean and efficient cooking solutions.
In an effort to combat this silent killer and also provide students with balanced nutrition, Forum Foundation has worked to improve cooking methods in its schools. In 2011 Forum Foundation worked with C.E.B.G. Mercedes Bustamante in Toabré to revamp their kitchen facilities. In 2012 Forum Foundation renovated the school kitchen at I.P.T. José de Los Reyes Vásquez in Caimito. Projects for 2013 include renovations to the school kitchens in Chiguiri Arriba and Bajo Grande.
Many of the schools in Coclé do not have adequate space to accommodate those enrolled. Some classes still meet outside or in rough concrete structures with roofs made of native materials.
Between 2009-2012 Forum Foundation helped 1,151 students from Caimito and Tulú by renovating existing classrooms and by building new ones.
Forum Foundation worked closely with school directors and the Parent Teacher Associations to fully realize these projects. Many parents volunteered their time and skills to build the schools while others organized fundraisers and helped transport materials.
A key to maximizing enrollment (and thereby graduation) is making education affordable. School uniforms, which can cost up to $125 per student, can prove a real financial hurdle for struggling families.
By providing uniform scholarships to needy families, Forum Foundation removes yet another barrier standing in the way of students and their education.
The importance of learning English cannot be overstated in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world. English is the fourth most widely spoken native language in the world, and in terms of sheer number of speakers, it is the most spoken official language. English is indisputably the primary language of global trade and commerce and international affairs. In many countries, tourism authorities and other public officials speak English in order to interact and engage with tourists, immigrants, and international business personnel.
Having a firm grasp of the English language can optimally position students toward higher paying careers as well as curb the cycle of poverty in rural Coclé. English is therefore an important part of the curriculum at Forum Academy and other Foundation-supported schools.
Forum Foundation is also responsible for starting the first advanced English preparatory course at the Centro Regional de Coclé, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá in 2012. We selected nine graduates from high schools in Coclé to attend the six-month program, which involved rigorous English classes as well as other courses, for which they earned college credit.
Upon completion of the program, three were selected to receive full scholarships to the Hun School of Princeton in Princeton, NJ, for a year (2012-2013) of post-graduate study in the United States. The following year saw a second cycle of students in the Advanced English program, with two students selected to attend the Hun School for the 2013-2014 academic year. Read about the 2013-2014 graduates here.
A cultural education is an important part of any academic program. Learning about and understanding one’s past helps us to understand our present and to shape our collective future. In 2011, Forum Foundation supported the historical traditions of old Coclé through a donation of costumes, sound equipment, and musical instruments to the school folk group in Chigoré.
Forum Foundation allows students to engage with their regional history and traditions in a fun and educational manner. Additionally, students participate in regional folk dance competitions with other schools.