La Maya volunteers bring Christmas fiesta to local families

12.6Everyone loves a great party, especially kids! Each year in December volunteers, teachers and students in Finca La Maya’s classes celebrate their efforts and progress with a big Gingerbread House Party. The event was started years ago by a dearly beloved volunteer and continues to be much-anticipated by the children. But this year the activity was extraordinary … perhaps the best ever!

Volunteers are essential to activities at Finca La Maya’s free classes, and this year they were blessed with some of the best talent imaginable. INSIGHT is an advertising agency in Panama City, created by the dynamic Lucia Bonadies Mora. In 2013 INSIGHT celebrated 15 years of business in Panama and to honor that success Lucia wanted to do a very special activity ~ “something my team would never forget”. “Voila!” she found it: the Gingerbread party for the childrens’ Christmas at Finca La Maya.

A meeting in INSIGHT’s conference room was arranged, recipes and quantities were discussed, teams were formed, responsibilities assigned and dates set. The resourcefulness and passion with which this group took on this project was inspiring to say the least! They managed to convince a restaurant to loan their industrial kitchen. A commercial bakery let them use their equipment to make the dough. Several INSIGHT employees even took special cooking lessons from a chef! Fourteen people on the baking team did the mixing, rolling, cutting for walls and roofs, and baked 10 huge sheets of gingerbread at a time. Others made cookies for the youngest children to decorate. One person was in charge of the oven. In one morning INSIGHT elves were able to bake and cool 360 cookie parts that made up 60 houses.

Afterwards, baked cookies were taken to the agency office in the large pans borrowed from the bakery, and INSIGHT elves put together the 60 ziplock bags with the parts needed to build each house. The huge stacks of baked cookies were then placed in a deepfreeze until they could be transported to FLM.

Next, a few days before the big party, several dedicated volunteers from the beach communities even missed a fabulous local Christmas party because they insisted on finishing making the gallons and gallons of “royal icing” and colorful frosting for decorating the houses and cookies.

Finally: building a sweet city.

Enter, the next dynamic swirling dervishes: the lovely lady elves from the Pacific coast beach communities!

On the day before the fiesta, volunteers and friends gathered in the large classroom at Finca La Maya and spent the entire morning “gluing” the sixty houses together. This critical step saves time and crying children whose roofs and walls can collapse in the delicate process of building their cookie casa. And like every other step in this process, it only sounds easy! After lots of sticky fingers and the city of cookie houses done, lunch was shared by the elves at FLM.

The big Gingerbread Day, at last.

At 9 pm students started appearing and lining up outside the classroom, anxious for the much-awaited party to begin. The team from INSIGHT arrived from the city and at 10 a.m. the frenzy of children, bon-bons, candies and gingerbread all converged pouring into the classrooms, gingerbread houses ready for their decorators!

It is quite impressive to see just how much candy and frosting can get piled onto one rather small plastic plate. But there were palaces, churches with flying buttresses, gingerbread men dancing in front of the cookie house. Then Santa showed up, hauling a big bag of goodies. He entertained the children as they all waiting outside the classroom while the “elves of INSIGHT” judged the gingerbread house competition….NOT an easy job with so many creative and delightful ideas! Winners were chosen, prizes were distributed and all participants got “StudyKits” to take home, also provided by INSIGHT.

It goes without saying that INSIGHT and ALL of the fabulous teams of elves were the angels who made this Christmas festivity a huge success, bringing smiles and joy to children in La Maya’s community programs.

God bless each and every one of you who made this enormous effort such a memorable celebration!

– End


  DOUGH Ingredients, Gingerbread Cookie Recipe:

Pillsbury Flour 70 LB                           White Sugar 30 LB

Crisco           30 LB                                Molasses     30 LB

Baking soda 0.6 lb.                               Nut meg     0.6 lb.

Ginger       0.6 lb.                                 Salt           1.8 lb.

Cost: approximately $200

ROYAL FROSTING ingredients for glue and icing

– 20 lbs confectioners’ sugar (powdered)                       – 60 eggs (to use whites-only)

– no food coloring needed for the white “glue”             – 1 large bottles of vanilla flavoring

THEN we need “GLAZE” frosting for the kids to decorate with.

– 20 lbs confectioners’ sugar (powdered)                       – 60 eggs (to use whites-only)

– 1 large bottles of vanilla flavoring                                  – 4 sets of food coloring

Total for both types of frosting:

40 LBs confectioners sugar (powdered)                         10 dozen eggs                      2 bottles vanilla extract


Free Community Programs at Finca La Maya are changing lives!

Finca La Maya in San Carlos provides FREE classes for English, Art for Kids, and a Computer Lab. Classes are held every Saturday and there is also a bilingual library. All activities are supported entirely by donations and volunteers. FLM always needs more of both!

The programs at Finca La Maya depend on the generosity of supporters and donations. These programs need constant participation of sponsors to keep them alive. La Maya welcomes all interested to please come visit, see our programs in action on any Saturday! Directions to find us are on our website, under the “About” link. La Maya needs volunteers! Please consider making a monthly donation (easy to set up on PayPal). Every dollar helps. Donations may be made directly on our website. Thank you with ALL of our hearts for your support!

Finca La Maya Community Programs – A hand UP, not a hand out.

San Carlos, Republic of Panama

tel. (507) 240-8281