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IMG’s 2024 Corporate Service Trip with School the World

In March 2024, seven IMG employees set off on a week-long service trip with School the World, a non-profit organization focused on providing access to quality education in Central America.

By Carly Kessler | Jun 7, 2024, 10:40 AM

In March 2024, seven IMG employees set off on a week-long service trip with School the World, a non-profit organization focused on providing access to quality education in Central America. While it was IMG’s fifth time participating in School the World’s corporate service trip, the 2024 trip marked the first time that IMG employees visited Northern Panama to assist in building a new school and playground. Previous trips were to support various areas of Guatemala.

Here is a look into what the incredible week entailed, told from the perspective of IMG team members who went on the trip.

The Community

Kids playing with piñata

Each day of our trip, our group traveled a couple of hours by bus and pickup truck along bumpy roads to reach the community and the school where we were serving, located deep in the Panamanian hills.

“The ride to the community was an adventure. We rode on uneven, dusty roads at a steep incline, but the views along the way were amazing. Honestly, the ride to and from the community became something we looked forward to every day as we got closer to our goal,” said Sophina Gapare, IMG Director of Global Quality and Process Improvement.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by community members and their children, who were all so friendly and very appreciative of our help throughout the week.

“It was obvious that this community took pride in themselves and in their school, and it was a blessing to help add to it what we could,” said David Martin, IMG Technical Project Manager.

Another way we were able to connect with the community members during our week in Panama was through home visits. Small groups of us volunteers had the opportunity to visit local homes for a day and see firsthand how the people we were serving lived their lives.

“Home visits provided an opportunity to really connect with the community we were there to serve. They also provided the realization and reminder that people have more similarities than we have differences,” said Gapare.

The Work

Team mixing cement

Our job for the week was to help finish building a new school and playground for the Panamanian community we were serving. We all worked together amidst the hot Panama weather to mix and pour cement and paint the school walls and playground equipment. Everyone in our group did their part to get the job done, and it was great to see true teamwork in action amongst a group of people united by a single goal.

“It was a hard week with long travel times and warm temperatures. I was so happy that we finished the job on time, and everything looked awesome by the end of the week. It was a complete team effort, and I was impressed with how well we worked together and looked out for one another while working,” said Lori Vaux, IMG Claims Manager.

The Children

Playing with the children

Halfway through each day, we had the opportunity to take a break from working to play with the school children at recess. This time included everything from blowing bubbles, face painting, and drawing with sidewalk chalk with the children.

“Recess with the kids was a delight and welcome rest. Play is truly a universal language because with the combination of toys, sign language, and lots of smiles and laughter, I am not sure who enjoyed recess more—the volunteers or the kids!” said Gapare.

“The children were so cute and happy that we were there. I wish I could have driven a semi-trailer full of clothes, school supplies, and candy up that mountain for them,” said Martin.

The Finished Project

Children swinging on playset

“The highlight of my trip was watching the children play on the new playground equipment. That made the sunburn and humidity all week worthwhile,” said Daniel Van-Zyl, IMG Assistance Team Leader.

By the end of the week, the project was finished, and the community members celebrated our hard work with a dedication ceremony. This ceremony included performances and speeches as a way to thank us for helping their community have a beautiful school and playground for their children.

“My favorite part of the trip was after the dedication ceremony on Friday. When I saw the kids on the playground, it was all worth it. The joy on the kids’ faces is something that I will never forget, and they will have that playground for years to come,” said Vaux.

The Takeaways

2024 STW group photo

While there are so many incredible things that this trip teaches you, one of the main takeaways for our volunteers was gaining a new perspective on what it’s like for our customers to travel in such remote parts of the world.

“Being in the remote community of Panama we served has provided me with invaluable insights into the challenges of coordinating cases in such regions. Factors such as the distance from centralized resources, limited access to communication infrastructure, and diverse cultural dynamics all present significant challenges for our customers,” said Van-Zyl. “I've developed a deeper understanding of why coordinating cases in locations like Panama can be particularly challenging. This understanding has undoubtedly shaped my approach to effectively addressing these obstacles.”

To say that this trip was a life-changing adventure would be an understatement. Our week in Panama is one that we will never forget, and we are so grateful to IMG for allowing us volunteers to have this incredible experience. We all are in agreement that the School the World Corporate Service Trip is one that everyone should experience for themselves, and given the chance, we would absolutely go again.

“I want to thank IMG for this opportunity, and my IMG teammates who were on the trip with me for all their help and support. We all worked together and represented IMG so well. I would definitely do this trip again!” said Vaux.

If you are planning a similar type of service or mission work trip outside of your home country, it’s important that you have the proper travel and health safety solutions in place before you take off. IMG’s Patriot Travel Series Plans are great for travelers looking for short-term travel medical insurance, and an iTravelInsured SE or LX plan can provide emergency medical expense coverage, plus benefits for trip cancellation or interruption.

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