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Paying it Forward

Kendré Barnes, a 2013 graduate of Washington and Lee University, is living and teaching English in David, Panama, as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant at La Universidad Autonoma de Chiriqui. She chose Panama for a variety of reasons. “I have a particular academic interest in questions concerning race, identity, poverty and the experience of diaspora and marginalized communities in the literature of the Spanish-speaking world. Panama seemed like the perfect place for me to pursue my intellectual interests while gaining teaching experience.”

She’s met a number of Panamanian students in her Intensive Reading course who have overcome steep socio-economic hardships to continue their studies. Many come from the Ngobe-Bugle ethnic community and live in the comarca, Indian reservations where quality of life, access to education and overall development outcomes are very low.

Their struggles have motivated her to start an Indigogo fundraiser to help them with a few bare necessities, such as textbooks, transportation, matriculation fees and meals.

She said, “In a globalized society, English is, for many people, the language of opportunity.” Her students “are determined to take their knowledge of the English language back to the comarca in an effort to prepare the next generation of their community with the skills to compete and thrive today, while maintaining the integrity of their traditions, visions and dreams.”

She added, “I personally know the importance of financial support in one’s academic career: from 2009 until 2015, I have been blessed with the opportunity to study, volunteer, teach and sing abroad thanks to the financial support and donations of many kind and generous benefactors who were willing to take a chance on my potential. I would not be where I am without their support.”