We are aware that our hotel would not be able to function without the help and support of the community, the place where we live. For us, this pandemic became an opportunity to give back a little of everything they give us.
Bocas del Toro is a dime-sized sea paradise that survives on tourism. We are a community made up of people of various races, languages, and home countries, but the most important thing about us is that we have stayed and will continue to stay united in helping each other through these tough times.
As you can imagine, this year’s difficulties have shown just how imperative it is to have a community that supports one another. Today we would like to share with you a bit about the work that we did together with the people from our island community while the doors of our hotel were closed.
When the pandemic hit in March and the island had to shut down completely, Divers Paradise Boutique Hotel began its community assistance efforts by gathering donations. First, we decided to make donations to those who are at the forefront of keeping our community safe: the police department. Through our financial support, the Bocas Town police officers were given hygiene items such as cleaning materials, masks, bottles of alcohol spray and gel so that they could remain healthy and disinfected, and thus be able to properly take care of the rest of the community.
Then, we hosted a joint talk by the Red Cross and the Ministry of Health for all of the police units to explain the correct way to wear masks, how to properly dispose of them, the importance of keeping their workplaces clean and how to work carefully with people who have tested positive for coronavirus. We also delivered masks, gloves and disinfectant alcohol to the Aeronaval unit stationed in Bocas del Toro.
It goes without saying that a stocked and prepared hospital is crucial for keeping a community calm in times of pandemic. For this reason, the local Bocas Town hospital became one of our highest priority places to provide help and encourage collaboration. We provided medical gowns, caps, and shoe covers for hospital physicians so they could be fully prepared to safely help our ill community members in need.
We repeated these same donations for both the police and the hospital again in June and we also developed cloth masks specifically for them with anti-fluid protection so they could wash and reuse them. The anti-fluids are protection filters to make them more resistant to airborne bacteria. Mr. Quintero, the director of the health center in Bocas del Toro, welcomed our donations at the local hospital.
We also distributed these same masks with filters in the smaller, more vulnerable communities that most needed them on the island. The area of ”La bomba” just outside of town, for example, was one of our targets because of their higher infection rate. Similarly, these masks were delivered to the airport entrance to ensure that we collaborated with the people who were protecting the health of Bocas del Toro at one of our largest points of entry.
Finally, after the recent hurricane that hit Central America and our Panamanian neighbors in the district of Chiriquí were greatly affected, we knew we had yet another chance to help. Again we worked with the Red Cross to deliver drinking water, baby diapers, and other basic necessities to those impacted by the storm. Donations from the greater Bocas community were received by Anselmo Thomas, the president of the provincial Red Cross, and he graciously recognized the members of our hotel for their support.
The organization of all of this support and collaboration efforts within the Bocas Town community was managed by the hotel’s owner Gadi Cohen and coordinated by Luna Yeritel, the hotel’s lawyer, and Elena Carón, the manager of our hotel.
At Divers Paradise, we understand and feel just how hard times have been and will continue to be for at least the near future. For us, this has meant that we had to make the difficult decision to close, recognizing how this negatively affects our employees. Nonetheless, while we work to be able to safely open our doors again, we continue to try to help those who are part of our professional family in the best ways that we can.
To help in this endeavor, we have maintained some contracts within the hotel throughout the pandemic to guarantee salaries, especially those of our security, maintenance and cleaning staff. On the other hand, for those contracts that we could not maintain, we gave each employee a credit for the supermarket “Isla Colón” with a specific amount per employee so that each had enough food to go around during the quarantine period.
We remain grateful and aware that our hotel would not be possible without the help or support of the Bocas del Toro community, the home where we live. It is a pleasure for us to be able to give back a little of everything we are given by this incredible community. What difficulties have you encountered, and hopefully overcome, because of this pandemic? We would love to hear your own experiences!