Karen Franco Reyes from Paritilla – winner of the first prize in the Copa Kodu.

May 22, 2016
Karen Franco Reyes, a resident of Paritilla, and student at the C.E.B.G. Carlos M. Ballesteros de La Palma school, won the first prize in all of Panama in the Copa Kodu, a software programming competition which took place May 20-21, 2016 in the Convention Center in the City of Knowledge in Panama City.  We are all very proud of Karen.  Kodu is a program that teaches youth from age 9-15 to use coding to create video games, learning programming skills that will form the base for learning more advanced programming.  The games created for the competition are educational and stimulate innovation in the use of the computer.

This opportunity was organized and supported by INFOPLAZAS SENACYT Panama and Microsoft.  Horacio Prado Duran, Supervisor of the Foundation’s Computer Learning Centers, and Director of the La Laguna Center, and Jesús Antonio Quiroz, Director of the Paritilla Center, taught many students in La Laguna, Paritilla, and Isla Canas how to use Kodu, and provided support for them as they prepared for the regional competition.  When Karen won at the regional level, they provided instruction and support for her as she prepared for the national competition.  Diana Bennett, a Peace Corps Volunteer also provided invaluable support to Karen and her teachers.

Karen was accompanied at the competition by her mother, Sra. Benita Reyes, and by Horacio Prado Duran.

Diana Bennett speaks highly of Karen. “Karen is a hard worker and a very determined student.  She deserved to win.  I know that she worked hard to achieve this.”

Horacio Prado expressed his pride. “I am very excited and proud of Karen for her good work and how well she represented the Foundation and our Computer Learning Centers.”

Sherwood “Miguel”  and Carol Guernsey, Directors of the Fund for New World Development said, “Our heartfelt congratulations to Karen for her incredible victory. We are very proud of her.  She has served as an example for many others to follow. “  The Foundation also presented a prize to Karen, at the celebration for Karen in Paritilla.

The website  http://copakodu.senacyt.gob.pa/   has more information about Kodu,

Our Current Projects

At a meeting in the village of La Laguna de Pocri, Panama in 2011, the community prioritized two projects, a computer center and a sports field.    In 2012, the Foundation opened a Computer Learning Center in La Laguna.  In 2014, a the Foundation started working in the nearby village of Paritilla, as well, and in 2015 opened a computer center the Paritilla school.  In 2015, the Foundation provided support to a pre-existing computer center on the Isla de Cañas, an island with a sea turtle refuge south of the tip of the Azuero peninsula, while they fought for local government funding.  In addition, the Foundation has acquired a piece of land in La Laguna that has been leveled  and set up with soccer and baseball fields.


Teaching for the Future

In 2018, the Foundation is piloting a new program in its Computer Learning Centers which promotes thinking skills through the use of technology and uses educational software to advance education of its students.

The staff of the Centers is partnering with the MEDUCA teachers in the local primary schools to integrate the use of technology into the teachers’ assignments in order to promote the development of students’ critical and creative thinking skills, and to advance students’ educational levels.

Computer Center staff works directly with teachers to prepare assignments that require use of the computer and Internet. They work with students to complete the assignments  and to use educational computer software and online courses in many academic areas.  Teaching of  computer skills continues to advance as well.

Our staff will also work with teachers and students in IPER (Instituto Panameño de Educación por Radio) in its Computer Learning Centers to use technology to enhance learning of people returning to education.

Computer Learning Centers

photo (2) (1) La Laguna

Both computer skills and ability to speak English are required for many of the jobs in Panama today.  La Laguna had no access to computers or the internet, and no opportunities to learn English. The Foundation first secured the assistance of the Panamanian vocational training agency, INADEH, to provide basic computer training courses to its residents. Meanwhile, the Foundation worked with MEDUCA, the Panamanian Department of Education, to establish a computer lab in a vacant room in the local school. The Foundation hired a local computer technician, bought ten computers, a printer, desks, server, and all necessary related equipment. The Foundation also purchased and installed Rosetta Stone software for the teaching of English with the computer program, for use by students, teachers and adults. Once everything was installed and running, the Foundation hired Horacio Prado from La Laguna as the Computer Learning Center administrator. The Center opened in the spring of 2012.  Ludovina Prado joined Horacio as his assistant in 2013. In the spring of 2013, the Foundation partnered with SENACYT, the government agency in charge of spreading internet coverage throughout Panama,  and became a government-sponsored Infoplaza.   In 2016, INFOPLAZAS, AIP separated from and now operates independently from SENACYT, and provides support and equipment, but no funding to the Infoplazas.  Our model is known as a “Computer Learning Center and Infoplaza”.

The local Computer Learning Center advisory committee meets monthly to provide support for the Center, and to facilitate communication with the community.  Members include Neris Quintana, Castula Prado, Betzaide Sanzhez, Evelin Prado, Sonia Caballero, Rufino Prado, Yaneth Ortega, Jose Diaz, Leticia Ortega, Hector Gonzalez, and Olivia Villareal.



The Computer Learning Center in La Laguna has been so successful, that in 2014, the Foundation began pursuing a new location for a similar project.  Based on community surveys, Paritilla was selected.  Using the same model, Peace Corps Volunteer Diana Bennett worked with the community for 9 months preparing to open the Infoplaza in the school building.  As before, we worked closely with MEDUCA, SENACYT, INADEH, and many local government officials.  The Internet was connected and the Inauguration took place on March 30, 2015.

Maruja Quiros serves as Manager and Administrator of the Center, and  Oreyda Cano as Assistant Administrator, both local residents of Paritilla.   A local advisory committee was formed.  Members include Librada Flores, Letsy Prado, Rosa Cerrud, Miquilina Ortiz, Jesús Quirós, Isabel Keddy-Hector Nilsa Lucero,  Viodelda Velasquez, Luis Herrera y Taina,




Assistance to neighboring computer learning centers

Educational activities in the Computer Learning Centers

In the two centers, our administrators teach courses in computer use for children and adults, and collaborate with the school teachers to incorporate the use of the computer and the Internet with the school curriculum.  They use software designed to teach advanced computer skills, including coding and web design, to children and adults.  One of our students, a 12 year old, won 1st prize in a nationwide competition in coding.   The center is used by other members of the community to teach courses on the environment, food preparation, and handcrafts.  INADEH, the agency that provides training in vocational skills, provides various courses in our centers, including English, electricity, plumbing, accounting, and professional skills.

Students from elementary through university level use the centers to complete schoolwork, and adults can take online courses and use the computers for personal needs.

Sharing our work with other Infoplazas

Since our model has been successful, we invite other computer centers and Infoplazas to participate in joint activities, such as competitions and science fairs, and assist them in incorporating more learning programs into their centers to become Computer Learning Centers.  We have worked with the Center in Isla de Canas, a sea turtle protection area, and are currently working with the mayor of Pocri to introduce educational programs there.

Daysi Torres, Administradora en Isla Canas

Isla Cañas


Sherwood Guernsey: President and Director

Sherwood is a lawyer with a private practice in Pittsfield, MA. He was born in a small town in upstate NY, attended public schools and went on to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1968. After teaching school in northern New Hampshire for a year after college, he married his wife Carol and together they joined the Peace Corps, serving in La Laguna, Panama from 1969-1971.

After Peace Corps, Sherwood went to the Antioch School of Law graduating in 1975. Following a brief sojourn in Pennsylvania, he and Carol moved to the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Sherwood opened his own practice in the early 1980’s. He is active in Democratic politics and served four terms as a State Representative in the Massachusetts legislature from 1983 to 1990.

From 1995-1997, he also took a sabbatical from his law practice and served for two years on the senior staff of the Peace Corps in Washington, directing “Domestic Programs” for Peace Corps, working with returned volunteers around the country.

He continues to practice law today  in Pittsfield, MA

Carol Guernsey: Treasurer and Director

Carol has worked as a teacher, health educator, nurse, and midwife since her years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Also from New York State, she graduated from Mount Holyoke College (BA), Russell Sage College (BSN), and the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing (MS).

She is currently “retired”, and devotes her time to the work of the Foundation.

Martha Kimmel de Martinez: Counsel to the Foundation in Panama, Director

Licenciada Martha Kimmel is an excellent attorney who has represented the Foundation in all of its projects. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation.  She resides in Santo Domingo, Provincia de Los Santos, Panama. Martha is bilingual, provides expert legal advice and general consultation on each of the Foundation projects, and often meets with government officials on the Foundation’s behalf.

Diana Bennett: Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Director

The Foundation is fortunate to have had Diana Bennett, a U.S.  Peace Corps volunteer work  with our project in Paritilla, San José, and La Laguna as a Response Volunteer.

Diana spent two years in the village of Las Trancas in Panama, then continued her service for a year to teach computer classes.   She  traveled all over Panama to teach computer courses at remote sites, and  worked with the government agency SENACYT to train the managers of their Infoplazas.

In her assignment to this Foundation, she worked with the people of Paritilla to  develop the new Computer Learning Center and with the Computer Learning Center in La Laguna, to improve daily operations and programs of the center.  Additionally, she provided programming support to the Centers in Isla Cañas and San José.

Diana is now retired, and has returned to her home in Pennsylvania.  Fortunately for all of us, she has become a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, and continues to share her expertise with ongoing projects.

Flor de Maria Prado: Honorary Director

Profesora Flor has been a strong community leader in La Laguna all of her life, totally dedicated to the improvement and advancement of her village, where she grew up with her well-respected family.

She was a school teacher for many years, first in La Laguna and then moving to teach in other communities and in the University in Panama, receiving National awards of distinction for her teaching.

Flor was essential in the creation of the Computer Learning Center program, and has been involved in all of the Foundation’s projects.  She is committed to the work of the Foundation because it is able to help her carry out her own vision of the advancement of La Laguna.  In 2016, Flor was named First Honorary Director of the Foundation, and remains its most important advisor.

Baseball and Soccer Field


DiputadoTito Afu visiting the sports committee at the new field

DiputadoTito Afu visiting the sports committee at the new field 2014

At the community meeting, there was resounding support for recreational opportunities for youth (and adults!), and a recreation field was essential in order to develop a program. The Foundation searched for a suitable parcel of land, and, after two and a half years, has found a great four acre parcel, bordering on a stream, just behind the center of the village.

The Foundation completed the purchase of the land in August 2013. The leveling and preparation of the land was completed in 2014.   The Sports Committee of La Laguna has taken over responsibility for the development of  baseball and soccer fields, field and equipment maintenance, and team organization.    A soccer team has already been organized and is playing regularly.

Improvements to the field continue.  The Sports Committee raised funds and purchased a mower to keep the fields in good condition.   In 2017, the committee completed building bathrooms with running water.

Members of the Sports Committee include: President – Noel Herrera, Vice President – Alcibíades Prado,  Edwin Ortega, Secretary – Abilio Sánchez, Assistant Secretary – Bernardo Prado, Fiscal – Nuvia Sánchez, Assistant  Fiscal – Viamilka Prado,  Angélica María Prado, Raúl Herrera y Horacio Prado,  José Diaz,  Director of soccer team – Vivian Ortega.

The Youth Committee: President  – Rey Jesús Ortega, Vice President – Luis Arauz, Secretary – Ailin Prado, Fiscal – Noel Antonio Herrera, Treasurer – Kathia  Sanchez,, Andi  Rene Prado, David Solís, Víctor Sucre


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