«I cannot imagine a world without mangroves.» Dayana Valerin’s face expressed concern for the many obstacles that the mangroves face. As mayor of the city of Remedios in Chiriquí Province, it was a privilege to be able to meet Dayana.
With poise, she answered our questions about the destruction of mangroves and what needs to be done in order to protect them. She first explained why they are so important to Panamanians. Not only do they act as a natural barrier against storms, but they also provide locals with food and help stimulate their economy. One of the biggest obstacles that they must overcome is building awareness about the importance of mangroves. This surprised me because I thought that this understanding had previously been established amongst Panamanians. I had a preconceived notion that all citizens were highly aware of the environment and took special precautions to protect it. This interview helped me to better understand which mangrove restoration efforts were being focused on at the local level.
I also learned a lot by Dayana’s leading style. With intelligence and a passion for serving people, she understands the important role that the mangroves have in her country’s environment. Because of her ability to understand the community’s needs, concerns, and ways of thinking, she is able she is able to connect with her citizens’ needs in order to take the necessary steps to implement legislation, which I believe is detrimental to getting everyone involved in the restoration and protection of mangroves. She realizes that this is a big issue, and it will take time for everyone to be able to tackle it. I admire and respect her passion for serving and her ability to understand the community. It is clear to me that she is an intelligent, involved, and determined leader who will help guide Panamanians into a cleaner and more sustainable future.
These are entries by students from Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX, USA) Roxo students traveling to Panama for Spring Break to work with Wetlands International on the Mangrove Project.