We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Howard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberly, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Prospera’s mission is to utilize soap recycling to develop and support sustainable projects that promote health education, family stability, community development, and better healthcare access. Prospera primarily operates in rural Panama in response to healthcare deficits, poverty, and school absenteeism due to illness. We launched a soap recycling workshop in Metetí in 2020, utilizing established relationships with elected leadership and Humanitarian NGOs; distributing soap during the pandemic to families with barriers to access. Prospera also addresses the lack of handwashing in our DFW area by practicing our hygiene program with Texan students teaching them when, where, why, and how they should wash their hands.
The population of Darién, Panamá, and its two contiguous Indigenous areas is 50k people. In over 6k square miles, there is no regional hospital and only small, understaffed care facilities. Public health has had a minimal presence here until the outbreak of COVID-19. While hygiene-related disease prevention is the biggest first step families can take towards staying healthy, there is no system to bridge that health literacy gap. Schools offer no health education programs to discuss hygiene practices. School-focused programming ensures the distribution of important health practices and bars of soap via students to families in remote villages and of all cultural backgrounds. Prospera has spent 12 months researching and developing a handwashing education program based on CDC-certified practices to reduce the spread of disease. Our hygiene education program, Bright Hands, Bright Futures, is the next stage of our initiative; getting bars of soap into the hands of vulnerable populations who have little to no healthcare access, especially children. We hope to reach 10k people with bars of soap in the next 3 years, accompanied by education showing individuals how THEY can impact the health of their family and community with good handwashing habits.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In school I was always a good student, I loved learning and thrived when managing difficult assignments. I have a small group of friends whom I adore and never struggled to connect with people. It really surprised me, however, to find that in adulthood I struggled in the “working world”. For the first 10 years of my career, I pursued and changed course a half dozen times. I got my degree in photojournalism but found the commercial photography and newspaper field intensely stressful and full of creative battles. I pursued nursing and found my own mental health compromised by the volume of hurting patients I cared for and whose problems I carried home with me. Other jobs presented volumes of repetitive work, micromanaging bosses, and few opportunities for growth. I didn’t understand why I didn’t fit in or felt so dissatisfied.
The place I felt most useful, appreciated, and understood was the world where I volunteered. After joining the Peace Corps I was asked to interpret for a visiting medical mission team. Their passion and energy inspired me. Two weeks of work a year wasn’t enough and after 10 years of being part of their annual trips, I decided I would pursue improving the long-term health of Panamanian children full time; Prospera has been built from scratch to make that vision a reality. Now I see myself using all of the skills I have trained for in every aspect of my work; photography, journalism, patient care, fundraising, wellness program management, interpreting, and international travel. I collaborate with businesses, church groups, universities, and educators to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people. It is the best “job” I have ever had.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The three things that I turn to for fullness in my life are good food, fresh air, and dancing!
My husband and I continuously search for unique and interesting places to eat. Life it too short to keep eating the same stuff over and over. If it has something delicious worth tasting, I want to go!
Biking along the Trinity River in Fort Worth and stopping at the Dream Park with my two little girls is my absolute favorite part of living here. The Botanical Gardens across the street from the park also make for a wonderful walk in almost any season.
I have been swing dancing since I was in the 6th grade, and even though it’s harder to make time now with kids and Prospera’s work, I absolutely love the live dances at Sammons Center for the Arts in Dallas.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Diane Edrington, Medical Director of Panama Missions, has been the sounding board and encourager of this initiative since we first worked together as Nurse Practitioner and Medical Interpreter team. Her energy for life and her passion for helping others continue to inspire me to persevere.