the best way to get to know the culture is to stay with a local family. we have a carefully screened and selected group of families who are waiting to introduce you to the Ngobe culture and host you in Soloy.

The hosting families agree to the folowing rules:

1. Homestay families will provide a private room with a door and lock. Families will not enter the room without permission. Families will not store important objects in the volunteers room.
2. Volunteers room should include a strong, well made, Ngöbe style bed. (mattress should be provided by volunteer)
3. Family should keep a clean house, particularly in bathroom, shower, and kitchen areas. Family should purchase bleach and use it to clean these areas daily.
4. Family should have a clean bathroom.
5. Family should have a shower (bucket shower style) in a private, secure area with walls.
6. Family should have a gallon container in shower area at all times full of water with a lid. It should be clearly labeled and only for the volunteer, families should have separate gallon container for family.
7. If toilet requires water (is not a latrine) a separate container of water should be provided – with a bowl to scoop the water at all times. It should (the toilet) always have water for flushing.
8. Families should purchase a new cooking pot for exclusively boiling water for volunteer.
9. Families should purchase a new gallon container with lid exclusively for storage of clean drinking water.
10. Water should be boiled every evening for the volunteer. The volunteer should never be without clean drinking water or, have to ask for water.
11. Meals will be cooked in a clean environment with clean utensils.
12. A plate, bowl, mug, and spoon-knife-fork should be provided to the volunteer on arrival, to be used for all meals. The volunteer should keep these items in their room, and bring them out at mealtimes to be served. The volunteer will be responsible to wash all of these items after meals with their own water supply(the water boiled by the families).
13. Meals: 3 meals a day, around the volunteers work schedule. If the volunteer is not at home for lunch, a “to – go” lunch should be prepared for them in the morning or night before.
14. Meals should not consist solely of rice. Please cook yucca and other foods.
15. Families should expect the volunteer to be somewhat homesick and experience culture shock at first. Please have mothers in families spend time with volunteers the first week.
16. Families should respect the different customs of the volunteers, such as a need for privacy. Families should expect volunteers to want to be alone or need quiet time. Children should be reminded often by their families to give the volunteer privacy.
17. Volunteers will probably bring some of their own food. Do not ask them to share their food. (children in particular).
18. Volunteers will have different things – do not ask to borrow or have things as gifts.
19. Do not ask for loans or gifts of Money.
20. Help volunteers, particularly women, understand cultural practices regarding dress.
21. Do not ask the volunteer for special favors or gifts.
22. Do advise the volunteer where to swim/bathe (big fonseca ok. small fonseca no).
23. Explain to the volunteer how Ngöbe swim fully clothed – and walk back home fully clothed.
24. Explain and share customs of the Ngöbe; share family life.
25. Health of the volunteer is your and the volunteer’s responsibility. If your volunteer is ill, take them to the clinic at once.

26. Let Adán know if you have any problems or special needs.


What you need to know regarding your homestay

Homestay includes 3 meals a day and 2 gallons a day of boiled water, access to a shower, toilet or latrine, and a private room. The cost for this service is $36.50/week. Medo takes $5/week for the administration costs, and the family gets the rest.

You must follow the volunteer guidelines at all times. Your main responsibilities to your host family are respecting them and the Ngobe culture, communicating your needs, and being vigilant about your health. Your homestay family has been trained to boil all of your water, as well as cook and clean in a santitary way. You are, however, the person responsible for your health. If you have a problem at your homestay-living conditions are not clean, or something like that, you must let a Medo coordinator, such as Adan, know so that the problem can be solved.. A volunteer with Medo will be visiting your homestay periodically.

That said, you will be eating Ngobe style food, such as rice, yucca, taro, and a few vegetables and fruits. Ngobe do not eat many fresh fruits or vegetables, and they do not drink milk or eat alot of meat.You will get plenty of food, but it will be different than what you are used to. Eating meat is up to your own discretion here, but I would advise against eating any at all-unless canned tuna-as there is no refrigeration here. Let the person coordinating your stay know if you want to tell the host family that you are vegetarian. If the thought of eating unrefrigerated meat repels you, we highly recommend being a vegetarian for the duration of your stay.

So, it´s a good idea to bring a multivitamin, some protein bars for energy, and rehydration salts or drink mixes to add to water. You cab buy in David some snacks to supplement your meals, such as dried fruit, nuts, cookies, peanut butter, fruit juice, crackers.


One of the main goals of Medo is to preserve the customs of Ngobe culture, which is really different than the Latino, Panamian culture. Latino culture is fun, easygoing,women dress in jeans and tank tops-it´s a sexy, fun culture. Ngobe culture is very different. Women wear long, to the ground dresses that are cut very relaxed, with high collars and puffy sleeves. Men wear pants and dress shirts.

Because the culture is so different of the Ngobe and the Latinos, and because you will be working with both groups, you need to bring clothes that are respectful to the Ngobe. This means(while working with the Ngobe and living with them):

1. bring a skirt.It should be a long skirt. You can wear this when hanging out with your family, or going swimming. Long means mid calf at least.

2. don´t wear shorts. Shorts are for children in the Ngobe culture.

3. Sexy. low cut tops, or stappy tank tops are out of the question (Unless you want to go out and have fun in David or Panama City, of course!

4. don´t bring expensive name brand things with names all over them, like Nike or whatever-the Ngobe have little and resent it when outsiders wear ¨rich¨clothes.

5. Ngobe women swim fully clothed. You will probably swim as well when here, as it gets you cleaner than a bucket shower! It´s a bit easier to swim in a skirt(just tie it once you are in the water). But once you get out of the water-or even going in-you can´t change into dry clothes right away, as you´ll need to walk to your house to do that. Bring something loose to swim in that will dry fast. Forget the bikini or one piece at home.

6. Foriegners that are bra less(even though ngobe are braless) are looked at as easy. Wear a bra.



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