By Michelle Colesanti

Imagine living in a shack in the mountainous woods to work a farm for the needs of the community, or imagine it is a day’s trip just to get to a doctor, dentist or internet connection.
This is the life of those living in the Calobre area of Panama.

A team of 25 people originating from St. Stephen Church will visit Calobre the last week of February. The team has been active there for about six years, usually visiting twice a year. In the past, the missions have helped to buy an ambulance and provide dental and medical clinics. This year is no exception. During the February visit, a pair of dentists will set up a clinic and offer dental and medical education as well.

The group is hoping that improvements can be made to the community farm with the goal of making it self-sustaining. Purchasing a rototiller, an irrigation pump and raising funds to purchase animal feed are additional needs.

Mission Coordinator Karen Ruby said, “The co-op farm in Calobre needs everything from new living quarters for the workers, pens for the animals, a larger irrigation pump, walk-behind plow and submersible pump. Right now the farm relies on the parish to get by. We are committed to helping them to become self-sustaining.”

She noted that input from others who have helped to develop a farm in a third-world country is welcome.

Members of other churches and social groups will also make this mission trip, and many members of the Brandon, Valrico and Riverview communities help support this mission. In addition to St. Stephen Church, Al and Carol Kleinotas of Car Wash on the Greens, located at 3618 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico have allowed the mission team to wash cars there on promoted days.

The goal is to help this area become more self-sufficient, and to do that, both money and supplies are appreciated to help with all that the community needs.

“We are grateful for our community support,” said Ruby.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to help can send a check to Karen Ruby, Panama Twinning Ministry c/o St. Stephen Catholic Church. Make any checks out to “St. Stephen Catholic Church” and put Panama Twinning Ministry in the notes section. Or you may contact Karen Ruby directly at

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.