April 2017
Helping Hands paints bright picture of community group


"Sip and Paint"

Fundraiser a

great success

By David Dell

LYNN GOHMAN, organiser for "Helping Hands" prepares 30+ potential artists for a fun afternoon in Volcan, Panama.

It was 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon in the small Panamanian town of Volcan. The location was the local quilting club (they were the only place with room and tables) 30 odd expats rolled in to support a local charity: Helping Hands of Tierras Altas. This is a group of American and Canadian expats who volunteer with non-emergency medical care. Basically, if you need a wheelchair, a walker or a pair of crutches they will see you get them. They also help with caregivers and meals.

A friend of mine who is now unable to walk was the recipient of a walker from the group and another dear lady friend received an amazing amount of home nursing help after a hospital stay. In a world that seems to be increasingly self-centered it is such a relief to find people like this, so when they asked for donations and asked would we attend a “Sip and Paint” fundraiser both my wife and I signed up.

The idea was simple: pay $20 as a donation and they would provide wine, food and a canvas to paint on. Oh! They also provided the acrylic paints, canvas and paint brushes.

I would say that most of the 30 had never painted in their lives before- maybe the odd art work at primary school with powder based paints on awful thick cartridge paper. Helping hand organizer and patron Lynn Gohman, was the guiding hand or paintbrush behind the event.

Lynn Gohman finished this lovely, local landscape piece, in just over an hour.

Lynn showed the group a copy of her art and said if anyone needed inspiration then they could copy her painting without any fear of copyright litigation. At about 4:10 after the wine had been poured the creative juices began flowing.

"Paula" seated next to accomplished local artist Carol Denne, did a masterful job, maybe more wine next time Paula?

I decided to do something fast and furious and with due homage to Jackson Pollack I did my”Melting hamburger dressing” Perhaps with a slight additional homage to Salvador Dali. I took various primary colours and swirled them around using the basic red, blue, yellow and green. I finished and then assisted my dear wife and absently mindedly tilted the painting upright – ah! The paint dripped downward- a disaster -well not quite. I am sure this technique was most probably discovered by the great Mr. Pollack and I accidentally rediscovered his secret.

"Melting Hamburger Dressing" not quite up to the National Gallery Summer exhibition- but I was pleased with it.

"Kate" and her Japonese style art.

A wonderful part of the afternoon's fun was that some people who had never painted before suddenly discovered they could be quite creative

"Theresa" another first time artist.

Yet another first time artist was my dear wife Lydia. (I must admit she did get a teeny bit of help from her hubby.

The true benefit of this afternoon’s artwork was not that fact that retired people suddenly discovered they had hidden artistic talent, it was that much of our previously united community was split apart some years ago into different cliques. Today, I think I can safely say we started to come together again.  That was, in my mind the great success of the afternoon.

The overall feeling was that this was a great fundraising success and "Yes!" We must do this again soon.


Where does all this medical equipment come from? How does it get to Panama? The answer is - the generosity of one man; A great unsung hero by the name of Tom McCormack.

Pictured above: Tom McCormack

Tom McCormack started working in Chiriqui in 1994 .As a volunteer with AID. teaching beekeeping and honey production. He retired in 2000 and since retiring,  lives in David 6 months each year.

He started a medical mission to provide everything medical except medicine. Shipping 18 40 ft containers to Chiriqui so far. Container number 19, will be in David at the end of June, followed by container number 20 in Ocober.

Incredibly, McCormack’s foundation has delivered well over  3000 wheelchairs, over 3000 walkers ,more than 4000 crutches. In addition the program provides external breast prothesis in which a 1000 have been delivered to patients in Chiriqui

Another program which works with the Ladies Lion club in David have provided thousands of pairs of glasses.

When in David, Tom works daily in a prosthetic clinic  located next to the jail in David City. Toms explains that he has fitted 513 new legs, 52 hands, and 7 complete arms so far.

The program has about 80 home hospital beds out on loan.

Besides supplying to volunteer community groups hospitals and clinics throughout the province benefit from this wonderful program.

All the containers enter Panama without payment of import taxes in the name of the mayor of David. Tom points out that the mayor never uses these donations for political purposes.

We ask that people visit the McCormack foundation website to see more of the great work that is being carried out in Chiriqui.