Embera Puru


Embera Puru is a small indigenous community located in the biodiverse region of Darien and Global Brigades began working with community members in 2012. The Embera culture can be seen in the traditional housing and dress of the community members. People in Embera Puru are primarily dedicated to agriculture which includes the cultivation of rice, yucca, yams, and otoe, a root vegetable. Additionally, some community members partake in the sale of artisanal crafts or small businesses within the community. Through Global Brigades, members have access to credit through the thriving Community Bank which will support continued investment in local businesses and home improvement projects for families within the community. Although the community sits along the Panamerican highway access to healthcare and legal services is still difficult and expensive for the majority of residents.

Corregimiento: Agua Fría
District: Chepigana

Homes : 44
Population : 266
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Some
Health Center : No, closest is in El Tirao
Community Health Workers : Yes
Homes with Latrines : 5%
Education in the Community : Up to 9th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 45 minutes


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Embera Puru is located just inside the Darién Province, bordered to the west by El Tirao and by Arimae to the East.  One of Embera Puru’s main challenges is that the Pan-American Highway in this area is of extremely poor quality.  Accessing the community is difficult and slow. The nearest health center is a health post in El Tirao, which is severely understaffed and lacks most necessary supplies. In Santa Fe, about 40 minutes away by bus, is a better-functioning health center.  There, nurses and doctors are available in the morning, and medications are usually available.  It is costly and inconvenient for community members to travel to the health center, so they are very excited to have access to better care through Global Brigades.


Brigade Volunteers


Medical Patient Consultations


Adult Health Education Workshops (Approx.)


Children Education Workshops (Approx.)


GB Panama’s Medical Dental team started the Agentes Comunitarios en Salud or ACeS program in 2016. “Agentes” from 10 communities in East Panama and Darien were Panama’s first community health workers. Among these first CHW is Williams Dogirama (pictured second from the left) from Embera Puru who is on track to complete all trainings in 2017 and start visiting community members with health needs.

Some of Williams’ primary responsibilities include:

  • Promoting healthy practices and maintaining contact with GB staff about their progress
  • Performing First Aid in the case of an emergency
  • Managing the Patient Referral cases of the community
  • Promoting involvement with other GB programs such as Human Rights, Public Health and Microfinance workshops
  • Recording and monitoring members of their respective communities who:
    • Are pregnant
    • Have a chronic disease
    • Are children under five
      years old.


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Pennsylvania State University March 2012 65 Southern Illinois University April 2012 24
Duke University & Stetson University August 2012 34 Stony Brook University May 2013 45
Florida Atlantic University March 2014 25 Kutztown University January 2015 25
St. John’s University May 2015 34 University of Cincinnati May 2016 19
Stetson University March 2016  24

*Starting in August 2017 Global Brigades Medical Program will be transitioning to a local partnership model and strengthening the Community Health Worker program (ACeS) so that communities like Embera Puru can receive health support and resources consistently without the arrival of brigade volunteers in mobile clinics.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


In working closely with the medical program, the dental program provides fillings, extractions, and fluoride treatments as a standard part of medical brigades. Most community members do not have regular access to dental care due to the lack of dentist within a reasonable distance.


Dental Patient Consultations


Fluoride Treatments


Fillings Performed


Dental Education Workshops (Approx.)


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Stony Brook University May 2013 45 Florida Atlantic University March 2014 25
Kutztown University January 2015 41 St. John’s University May 2015 34
University of Cincinnati May 2016 19 Stetson University March 2016 24

*Starting in August 2017 Global Brigades Medical Program will be transitioning to a local partnership model and strengthening the Community Health Worker program (ACeS) so that communities like Embera Puru can receive health support and resources consistently without the arrival of brigade volunteers in mobile clinics.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Community members in Embera Puru lack access to financial resources within the community. The majority of community members do not have bank accounts and there are only limited informal forms of credit available.  For example, a person could obtain ‘credit’ at a local store by buying something now and paying later, simply adding it to their ‘tab,’ but there would be no formalized credit transaction.  Larger financial institutions do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income, making it difficult for local micro-enterprises to grow and thrive. Most community members cite the distance to the nearest bank as the main discouragement to having a personal savings account. Even if individuals wish to travel the distance, not all community members can become members of these financial institutions–cooperatives require monthly membership fees, savings accounts often require a fixed income, and the cost of travel provides an additional barrier.


Brigade Volunteers


Loans Administered


Capital Investment


Saving Accounts Opened


The Global Brigades Business and Microfinance Team trained a new Community Bank in 2014.They also brought Microfinance and Business brigades in order to strengthen both the knowledge and trust in the community bank. This encouraged the opening of more savings accounts, growth of seed capital, and upon the completion of six months of executive board training, the Community Bank began giving out loans to bank members to spur economic growth and home improvement projects.


In addition to the Community Bank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In Embera Puru there are currently 10 businesses that have received financial training and business recommendations. Agro-businesses are prominent forms of commerce within this community and adequate book-keeping and maintaining relationships with customers, as well as proper agriculture cultivation can lead to increased revenues for business owners and employees.

As members of the Community Bank, these micro-enterprises, led almost entirely by women or families, contribute to savings accounts and budget for loans to expand their businesses in the future. Through the help of Business Brigades, clients get advice on their most concerning business challenges and can also receive assistance in developing sustainable agriculture practices.




Business Name Client Name Type of Business

Kiosko Griselda

 Limoriana Salazar, Jose


Kiosco Xavier (Anel)

 Anel, Eudoro Dogirama

Hermanas Cordobas Luci Dumaza, Solvio Cordoba Storefront

The Environmental Committee

Marcelino, Benicio Pacheco, Wilfrido Jaripio

Kiosco Hermanos Bacorizo Edwin Bacorizo Storefront
Kisoco 3 (Berrugates) Guillermo Chango, Norris Ortega Storefront
Mariela Tunai Environmental Committee Agriculture

Familia Berrugate Quintana

The Berrugate Quintana family


Wilfrido Garipia

Wilfrido Garipia

Familia Dojirama

The Dojirama family



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Columbia University January 2013 9 Carnegie Mellon University March 2013 15
Miami University of Ohio March 2013  40 Dublin Institute of Technology June 2013 8
Texas A&M University December 2013 20 University of Pittsburgh / Penn State University March 2014 20
UIUC January 2015  15 Dublin City University March 2015 12
Arizona State University & UC Berkley May 2015  20 University of Connecticut May 2016 15
Michigan State University and Ball State University May 2017  13

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Embera Puru is located in the Darien province, in Eastern Panama. Embera Puru does not have its own health care center; instead, the community members must travel to Santa Fe to receive medical treatment. Additionally, many community members in Embera Puru lack the resources needed to improve their homes and prevent diseases caused by unsafe living conditions. The community has a gravity aqueduct water system, with the majority of families connected to it, but the system is not entirely reliable; families in Embera Puru do not receive consistent water during the dry season. The community is highly aware of this issue and resorts to using the nearby river for water only when it is absolutely necessary. Very few homes in Embera Puru have concrete floors; the community members have maintained the traditional Embera construction: wooden floors raised above the ground by 6-8 feet.  None of the members of the community have in-home water filters, but a few families do add chlorine to their water to purify it.  Families do not boil their water for cultural reasons. Only a small percent of homes within the community have access to a working latrine.



Brigade Volunteers


Latrines Constructed


Hours of Volunteer Construction


Approximate Number of Beneficiaries


With the cooperation of the Comite de Salud (Health Committee) in Embera Puru, and the support of local families, Public Health Brigades have renovated 15 latrines in the community and one in the school building which can be accessed by all students and visitors to the school. One particularly valuable aspect of Embera Puru is the nearby river. From this river, families can gather sand and gravel to use in the cement and concrete mixes for their latrines. This ensures the support and partnership of the families, but allows them to contribute in a low-cost manner.


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Boston University January 2013 16 Pennsylvania State University May 2013 10
University of Colorado May 2013  15 SUNY New Paltz and University of Kansas May 2013 20
Stony Brook University May 2013 11 University of Missouri May 2013 5
Rutgers University May 2013 9 CUNY Macaulay August 2013 15
Oregon State University September 2013  25 Munich University October 2014 20
Rutgers University / New Brunswick May 2017 16

Local Reference Points

View the map to see the closest volunteer lodging facilities, hospitals, and other relevant points of reference.

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