The pandemic has exacerbated social problems such as unemployment where Panama faces the worst statistics in the last 20 years. The National Institute of Statistics and Census of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Panamanian Republic (Inec) registered 371,567 unemployed people.
Circumstances have pushed many citizens to undertake and others to subsist on their businesses, such is the case of Emma Urrunaga, who owns Departys, a business organizing events and children’s parties that was affected by mass confinement guidelines due to the crisis.
Once the activities were paralyzed, she could not continue leasing the animation equipment, or the decorations among other services her business offered. It was then that she reconsidered her services and what she could offer her loyal clientele.
In the midst of the pandemic, she trained in baking and cooking courses, then opened her menu to the public. She offers her catering services through @delicias.departys.
For her, the importance of reinventing herself in difficult times has become her personal hallmark, where despite the obstacles she has overcome along with her family, especially seeking to provide a promising future for her son.
In that journey, her husband has become “the engine that drives her,” and together they have reinvented her business to pay for the household expenses.
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On the other hand, there is Víctor Moscote, a baseball coach who lost his job after the pandemic; However, he has continued with his business @stylesports10, a virtual store for the sale of sports equipment. With this income, he supports his family made up of his son and his wife.
At present, although an atmosphere of uncertainty is perceived in the country due to the mobility restrictions and prolonged quarantines established by the health authorities, Moscote hopes that the situation in the country will soon be resolved and everything will return to the desired “normality.”
One fact is certain. During times of crisis, invention is sharpened and this is when original ideas emerge.
Adriana Valcarce, co-founder of Kindly Shop, says she created the marketplace last year in the midst of the health crisis with the aim of creating a space that would allow independent brands, artisans and small businesses in Panama and the region the option to digitize and market their products at home and abroad.
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The platform for entrepreneurs makes available products made out of recycled materials such as plastic, organic cotton, chemical-free products, handmade products, among others. Unlike other marketplaces, Kindly Shop showcases products which are socially and environmentally conscious.
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In line with the company’s support of independent brands, the co-founder remarks that everything arose out of the motivation to offer buyers a way to acquire products in a more responsible and conscious way, including to learn where the items they purchase come from and the impact they have on the environment.
Kindly Shop creates a community of artisans and creators who support each other to get ahead. The Kindly Shop brings them together so that the consumer can find everything in one place, from clothing, natural beauty products, home decor, to groceries.
Its goal is for the group of entrepreneurs to grow and become stronger and then create a movement that promotes responsible and conscious consumption.
National & International Support
In response to the pandemic, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) have provided technical support to 1,000 women from the Ngäbe Buglé region through the guidance of their specialists. The program is developed through a $ 2,210,463 million fund that is part of the World Bank loan project to strengthen Panamá’s social protection and inclusion system.
This program has a gender component. It promotes the strengthening of human capacities and citizen participation in vulnerable areas through field schools, which are a methodology for the transmission of productive techniques for crops in plots, managed by the families benefited from this initiative. The families receive guidance regarding cultivation, and strengthening of human and local capacities.
The participating women are given seed capital, tools and technical advice for the development of their productions. This project is already in its second phase and is benefiting 2,647 families, most of whom belong to conditional cash transfer programs (Ptmc). In a recent work tour of the region, 1,327 new families were trained in new agricultural techniques that the national government will make available to them.
The regions that participate in this activity were selected through the Colmena Plan, which identifies through a scientific tool the most vulnerable districts of the country.
According to the organizers of the program, in mid-February more than 600 women from the townships of Samboa, Buri, Man Creek and Twai in the Jirondai District, will be the first to venture into this pilot plan. Then the women from the townships of Cerro Pelado, Sitio Prado, Cerro Caña and Cerro Puerto in the Districts of Ñurum and Müna will join.
The program also includes the town of Lajas Blanca in the District of Cémaco in the Emberá region.
Some of these townships present up to a 99.4% incidence of people living in poverty, according to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI-C) at the district and township level prepared by the Social Cabinet of Mides.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Culture (MiCultura) created a training program for entrepreneurs in creative and cultural industries during the pandemic.
In the first phase, the entrepreneurs received inductions focused on the creation of digital stores, promoting post-covid-19 business, among others. In the second phase, entrepreneurs received direct mentoring, where they presented their business plan and some received credit and/or direct help to start their ventures or leverage existing ones.
These funds come from the proceeds of the Patrimonio Cultural del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. In total, they allocated direct aid funds to 100 ventures, ranging from $ 5,000 for new projects and $ 15,000 for businesses that are already operating.
The 1,200 registrants received the Ampyme business workshop to be able to apply directly to the National Government’s reactivation programs with seed capital, which are non-reimbursable funds of $ 2,000 or opportunity banking, which are loans with sensitive interest to 84 months ranging from $ 5,000 and up.
Astrid Chang has a degree in Journalism with an Emphasis in Audiovisual Production. Since 2018, she has been a journalist at La Estrella de Panamá. Her work in the newspaper was initially as an intern, where she developed in the area of sports, nationals, social networks and the web. Later, she was hired to lead the themes for World Youth Day and to be a presenter for the segment “Flash Economy.” She later became part of the Café Estrella team, a new content proposal by ‘La Decana’. In this booklet she has written articles on the environment, technology, health, sports, society, music, culture, sexuality, art, fashion and tourism. Likewise, she has organized and directed projects with visual artists for the International Book Fair of Panama. She too, was sent special to cover the Lima 2019 Juegos Parapanamericanos, and currently she is the coordinator of sports issues in the newspaper. She has training in journalistic leadership.