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March 24, 2011

WiLDCOAST Teams Up with Give and Surf, Matuse Wetsuits and the Kids of the Old Bank for Clean Up

WiLDCOAST, Give and Surf and Matuse Wetsuits Join the Kids of the Old Bank for a Village Clean Up
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The Children of the Old Bank on Bastimentos Island, Panama

Although it is not Baja, the Bocas del Toro Archipelago on the Caribbean Coast of Panama faces many problems similar to those WiLDCOAST is working to improve in Northwest Mexico. Over-fishing, sea turtle consumption, urban run-off and improper trash disposal are just a few of the issues that overlap between the coastal communities of the Baja California Peninsula and those of this small Panamanian island chain.

Last week, WiLDCOAST’s Wildlands Conservation Program Manager, Zach Plopper, had the privilege to visit Bastimentos Island with locally based non-profit, Give and Surf, and Matuse wetsuits to explore the island and join local communities in a few efforts to protect their natural resources and coastal heritage.

Most of the island’s population is centered in Old Bank, a village of vibrantly painted wooden homes, restaurants and shops built on stilts and docks over a placid lagoon. Give and Surf, an upstart non-profit, is basing its operations in Old Bank to help address some of the environmental issues prevalent on Bastimentos Island. Zach kicked off his stay in Old Bank with a village clean up that involved the local youth who were exuberant to be a part of such an event. Twenty some trash bags were filled to the brim with sidewalk litter. Although the clean up didn’t solve the issue of trash on the island, it did raise awareness among the locals about proper disposal. The local kids had such a good time, they asked when the next clean up would be.

Further up the coast and deeper into the island’s towering mangroves are the Ngobe indigenous communities of Bahia Honda. Give and Surf has spent countless hours building a playground for the area’s only school. Zach was fortunate to be present for its unveiling after which the kids went haywire on its swings, ladders, seesaw and sandbox, none of which they had ever seen before. Give and Surf is now focusing its attention on water catchment systems for the scattered villages of the Ngobe community.

Zach left Bocas del Toro with the impression that a little bit can go a long way on Bastimentos Island. The Old Bank clean up started with only a handful of participants but ended with most of the townspeople with full trash bags slung over their shoulders. With a little bit of education regarding the benefits of clean drinking water and water catchment system instillation techniques, the Ngobe people of Bahia Honda can possibly improve the health of their children who battle a multitude of water-borne illnesses.

There is a lot of work to be done on Bastimentos Island. WiLDCOAST was eager to share its experiences and knowledge from working in the communities of Northwest Mexico. The experience shows that although geographically and culturally distinct, conservation strategies employed in one corner of the globe can be effectively replicated in others.

WiLDCOAST would like to thank Give and Surf, Matuse Wetsuits, the people of Old Bank and Bahia Honda for the amazing experience.