In 2008, Rabbi Sion Levy TZ”L, the then Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic community in Panama, called parents to a meeting to warn of the dangers threatening the youth. Toward the end of his speech, he broke down, beseeching parents to protect their children from drugs, alcohol, and gambling.
In 2011, after seeing that indeed, there were problems that had to be addressed; community leaders looked to The SAFE Foundation for help. After directors from SAFE visited Panama and representatives from Panama came to New York, the Panamanian community introduced SAFE, calling it COMSANA, meaning: A Healthy Community.
Program Director of Comsana, Yvonne Attia, proudly states that currently the program is successfully running in their three community schools.
Comsana works with a translated version of the Project SAFE curriculum, translates and distributes SAFE’s Parent Emails, and visits SAFE in New York regularly for trainings.
This past August, coordinators of Comsana introduced the successful Project SAFE AD Contest to their high school students. Just as for the community students in Brooklyn and Deal, the rules of the competition were to create a powerful and creative ad reflecting one of the lessons they’ve learned in class. Before launching, the instructors decided to decorate their schools’ hallways with the winning ads from SAFE USA’s contest. This created a lot of excitement, especially because the first place prizes were MacBooks. Coordinators of Comsana, Educator Corinne Smilovici, and Psychologist Becky Malca, said, “The students were shocked that we were going to be giving out such great prizes. At first they didn’t believe us!”
First place winner Perla Silvera said, “This was a great experience, and we learned a lot! We applied the concepts that we learned in Comsana and used our own ideas. From our ads, the members of Comsana realized how important and productive their work has been.”
Director of Project SAFE Shira Berkowitz said, “It’s wonderful to see the impact we have on our sister community in Panama.” Yossi Sirote, the Associate Director of Project SAFE agreed. He said, “It’s fascinating to see the likenesses between the 2 communities. We are grateful that we can face similar challenges, collaborate, and be so productive together.”
To find out more about The Project SAFE School Program or if you, or someone you know, needs help, call our 24/7 hotline 866-569-SAFE (7233).