Kind Visitor

Serving Dignity With Christmas Dinner

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As managing director of Finca Tranquila, a foundation in Bocas del Toro, Panama, dedicated to sustainable rainforest farming, I'm intimately involved with food production.

I have also spent years as a professional chef and several times annually I leave my home in Bocas to be a private chef and food consultant in parts of the Caribbean and eastern United States.

One of the things my experience in the food industry has taught me is that the people you feed are always a mystery to unveil. Let me explain.

This past Christmas I volunteered to prepare meals for an old-folks home on Isla Colon, one of the many islands in the Bocas archipelago. The organizers of the dinner told me, "Don't make the food too fancy. The old people are not that refined."

How wrong they were! Some of the elderly we served recalled with fond memories the gala dinners they'd attended, the elegant attire they wore to them, the gorgeous flower arrangements that were also in attendance.

They regaled me with funny tales of food and wine they'd savored. Modesty didn't prevent some of the seniors from mentioning how adept they'd been in the kitchen, the sumptuous meals they'd made. Most have wonderful memories of food.

Country food, fancy restaurant food, an exceptionally exotic plate—everybody had a story of a remarkable meal to tell!

It's always an uplifting moment to witness the power of food. Food is a humane tool that gives back dignity to souls that so often have been entirely abandoned by their families and their government. Food does that: It relates to deep personal experiences as well as at the cultural level.

The Bocas old-folks home depends entirely on private donations, thanks to a government that has shirked its responsibility to the old people—taxing them for years but in the end leaving the seniors wanting for food, medicine, even basic hygiene items.

But at the annual Christmas dinner, everyone dances...and there is some wine involved! 

By Mathilde Grand, Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama

  • Susan Englen I love your kindness! Such a sweet thing to do!
  • Mathilde Grand Thanks to all for your kind comments.
  • Scott Doggett Mathilde, I watched the YouTube video mentioned in the Kindness Partner's Information section. It's so hard to see people in such terrible health and in such terrible conditions. What you did likely brightened the lives of the home's coherent residents for weeks. It was truly a wonderful act of kindness. Thank you, and thank you for posting this lovely KiVi.
  • Stephen Myers Mathilda, putting any extra energy in presenting food makes people take note, and tells them "you are worth the effort." Thank you so much for your efforts and sharing this story on Kind Visitor!
  • Michael Edward Lenert You've painted a beautiful picture with this story of love and compassion. Imagine how much more beautiful our world would be if many people behaved as you have!
Kindness Map
Kindness Partner's Information
Name Asilo De Ancianos Hogar San Vicente de Paul
Street Address Av H Nte between Calle 8 and Calle 9
City Isla Colon
State/province Bocas del Toro
Country Panama
Post Code
Contact's Title
Website No website. Please watch their YouTube video:
KiVi Notes
To improve the care offered by and conditions at the Asilo, the following U.S.-based organization was created: Friends of Casa de Asilo (FCA). Kind Visitor has confirmed that FCA has been designated a public charity by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (the group’s EIN is 81-1447309). American taxpayers can make tax-deductible contributions to the Asilo through FCA.