Located in central Panama is La MICA Biological Station, a project begun in 2009 to provide facilities for students, researchers, and general tourists while providing much needed work for the impoverished local people. Since that time La MICA has built a cabin, dormitory, and bathhouse. Since 2010 they have hosted two classes from the United States and students and general tourists from around the world.
Their focus is on the conservation of the local environment, history, and culture through research, education, and global outreach. The area is incredibly rich in biodiversity, located right on the Continental Divide of the moist Atlantic and drier Pacific. The area is home to over 375 species of birds, 5 large cats, over 65 species of frogs and 70 species of snakes, countless orchids, and endless amazing butterflies. It is the site of the plane crash of Division General Omar Torrijos (who negotiated with President Jimmy Carter over ownership of the Panama Canal) and is home to much tradition.
La MICA’s objective is to keep prices affordable, especially for students hoping to experience the tropical forest as part of their studies or research project. La MICA offer lodging, food, local and in-country transportation, field assistants and guides, laundry services and exposure to local culture. They have provided everything from a single ride to Omar Torrijos National Park for a birder to complete services for seven weeks for twenty-three students. Nearly all of these tasks are carried out by the local people, La MICA, at times, employs up to twenty people.
Now, in even the most stressful of economic times, this project continues to hang on and even advance forward. How? First, the local people remain dedicated through even the toughest times, often working long hours for little pay to complete the bathroom or dormitory in time for guests to arrive. Why? Simply because they are genuine people who gave their word and their promise to this project. Secondly, general people, students, and anonymous friends have opened their pockets and donated their hard-earned funds to assist, even in the most difficult of times. Donations average just $60.54 with the most common donation being just $10. Many people simply chip in a dollar or some spare change. Donations are tax deductible through the United States and online giving, including automatic monthly gifts, is an option. This year, in light of the struggles everyone is facing, La MICA launched the Donate $11 for Conservation in 2011, asking each person to simply give $11. This amount goes an incredibly long way in Panama and hopefully is something that everyone can afford.
As these projects go, there is always need for assistance for continued improvement and for hiring more local people to partake in this conservation-oriented mission. Future goals of La MICA Biological include more research on a variety of biological subjects, conservation of are lands, more interactions with the local schoolchildren, and development of recycling and sanitation projects in the local communities. They also hope to develop scholarships for student visitors. Visit their website to see in what way you can help, including many options that cost you nothing. If you find yourself in Panama passing through Coclé Province, take a couple of days to stop. Even if you would like simply to explore Omar Torrijos National Park, La MICA Biological Station can organize your visit for you.
Support a simple project and know you are not only helping to conserve an amazing cloud forest, but doing something amazing for humanity by assisting the impoverished people who so dedicate themselves to the project.