From June 6-18, Global Game Changers participated in a cultural exchange program operating under the auspices of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which allocated funding to FHI 360 (Family Health International) to organize and implement a trip to Panama. Barrios, (Neighborhood in Spanish) is a unique program designed in three parts to maintain a positive relationship between the United States and Panama.  The first stage of the program is to bring civil society practitioners and community organizers to Washington, DC for an educational visit with Sport-For-Development experts, non-profit executives, and community center leaders. The second part of the program then sends a delegation down to Panama to present workshops and to consult and assist in the development of new potential programs.  Finally, small grants are given to the participants in Panama to implement their projects.

The American delegation to Panama consisted of five experts on Sport-For-Development, inner-city community service, women’s empowerment and sport psychology. Each of the presenters had unique experiences and perspectives, providing a wealth of collective knowledge that served as a foundation for the trip. Global Game Changers co-founder Josh Simon represented the GGC team on the delegation to Panama.

On Tuesday June 11th, Josh conducted a presentation and workshop on “Conflict Resolution through Sport,” beginning the two-hour session with an introduction to Global Game Changers, providing a brief overview of the company’s origins and our previous work with PeacePlayers International, as well as our continuing work with SportsUnited, a public diplomacy initiative of the State Department. He then delivered a context and explanation of Sport-For-Development, and discussed best practices with session participants. For the workshop component of the session, Josh utilized the help of some of the Panamanians that participated on the trip to the United States to facilitate the workshop, breaking into groups and constructing program models, using specially-tailored Monitoring and Evaluation techniques designed by Global Game Changers partner Julie Younes.  Not only did the new participants in the session representing various NGO’s in Panama come away with invaluable knowledge of how to build successful programs, group participants that came to America utilized the model (which had been taught to them while in America) when presenting their first program drafts at the US embassy in Panama.

In addition to the presentations, the group of Americans also participated in educational tours of Panama, including the Mira Flores Tourism Center of the Panama Canal, the Old City of Panama, and a visit to interior Panama to the city of Colon. The American delegation also helped facilitate a sports festival, in which youth were able to come together to play soccer, basketball, football, and ultimate frisbee. Fundacion Calicanto (the host organization in Panama), and FHI 360 did a fantastic job of building the American delegation’s schedule and connecting the delegation with such bright and passionate individuals and groups. Ultimately, Global Game Changers is very honored to be a part of a continuous effort to maintain strong ties with Panama.