Embera Puru

Overview

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 : 79
Population : 268
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Some
Health Center : No, closest is in El Tirao
Community Health Workers : Yes
Homes with Latrines : approx. 62%
Education in the Community : Up to 9th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 45 minutes

Medical

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

HEALTH CARE ACCESS:

Even though Panama is a country with a lot of economic growth, this growth does not apply equally to all Panamanians, especially those in rural areas. This results in stark inequality when it comes to healthcare access. The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) provides two different types of health facilities throughout rural Panama: Centros de Salud and Puestos de Salud. Centros are the larger of the two, often found in municipalities, and typically have at least one physician on staff at all times with nurses and potentially a dentist. Puestos are found sporadically in rural communities and generally have a single nurse available. 

Even with this coverage, the Centros frequently lack a full pharmacy and the staff capacity to see every patient each day. After walking long distances or paying for a bus, rural visitors to the Centros can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities. The physician density in Panama remains around 630 people for every one doctor. According to the World Health Organization, there should be a maximum of 435 people per physician to qualify a country as having adequate access to medical attention.

The closest Puesto de Salud to Embera Puru is located in the neighboring community to the west, El Tirao. The nearest Centro de Salud is in Santa Fe, about 40 minutes away by bus. The most common illnesses in Embera Puru are Diarrhea, Fever, and Colds.

333

Volunteers

763

Patient Consultations

N/A

Vision Screenings

70

Health Education Workshops

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS:

A group of CHWs from East Panama, trained in 2019

Embera Puru has 1 active Community Health Worker that was trained by Global Brigades. Community Health Workers, or Agentes Comunitarios en Salud (ACeS), work on a volunteer basis as advocates for healthcare within their communities. Their primary responsibilities include: educating community members to prevent common illnesses, providing emergency first aid, supporting pregnant mothers and newborns, and following up with chronic patients. The presence of these volunteers and their advocacy for health within their community contributes to the sustainability of healthcare supported by Global Brigades’ Medical Program and is one of the most impactful disease prevention strategies in rural communities.

BRIGADE INFORMATION

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics are hosted in Embera Puru’s school building. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Each day of the brigade, an average of 13 educational workshops or charlas are facilitated with the clinic’s patients.

  • AVERAGE PATIENTS ATTENDED: 171

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN EMBERA PURU:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Pennsylvania State University Medical Brigade March 2012 65 Southern Illinois University Medical Brigade April 2012 24
Duke University & Stetson University Medical Brigade August 2012 34 SUNY Stony Brook Medical Brigade May 2013 45
Florida Atlantic University Medical Brigade March 2014 25 Kutztown University Medical Brigade January 2015 25
St. John’s University Medical Brigade May 2015 34 University of Cincinnati Medical Brigade May 2016 19
Stetson University Medical Brigade March 2017 24 Northwestern University & University of California Davis Medical Brigade March 2019 26

Dental

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

DENTAL CARE ACCESS

A dental charla in Ipeti Emberá, Panama

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.

265

Dental Patient Consultations

140

Fluoride Treatments

120

Extractions

N/A

Fillings Performed

BRIGADE INFORMATION

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics are hosted in Embera Puru’s school building. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Each day of the brigade, an average of 13 educational workshops or charlas are facilitated with the clinic’s patients.

  • AVERAGE PATIENTS ATTENDED: 171

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN EMBERA PURU:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Pennsylvania State University Medical Brigade March 2012 65 Southern Illinois University Medical Brigade April 2012 24
Duke University & Stetson University Medical Brigade August 2012 34 SUNY Stony Brook Medical Brigade May 2013 45
Florida Atlantic University Medical Brigade March 2014 25 Kutztown University Medical Brigade January 2015 25
St. John’s University Medical Brigade May 2015 34 University of Cincinnati Medical Brigade May 2016 19
Stetson University Medical Brigade March 2017 24 Northwestern University & University of California Davis Medical Brigade March 2019 26

Water

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in Embera Puru but has not yet begun with the Water Program. Now in the Planning Phase, the Water Program will begin implementing a new water system or any necessary repairs to existing infrastructure as soon as feasible.

Water System : Yes
System Type : Gravity Aqueduct (from Agua Fria), river & rainwater
Homes Connected to Water : ~82%
Water Council : Yes

Business

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

EMBERA PURU’S ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

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.

199

Volunteers

92

Loans Disbursed

29

Saving Accounts Opened

$12,545

Capital Invested

EMBERA PURU’S MICROFINANCE SOLUTION:

Embera Puru’s community bank receives a follow-up visit from GB staff

The Business Program works to stimulate the local economy by organizing community volunteers around a community bank, or caja rural, which is entirely owned and operated by its members. The Business Program provides training and support to help strengthen these community banks. In order to pool their limited funds together, increase the capital available to the community bank, and expand the impact of its financial services, each member contributes a capitalization fee for which they receive a proportional amount of the bank’s dividends at the end of its fiscal year. Upon the completion of six months of executive board training, the community bank begins giving out loans to bank members to spur economic growth and home improvement projects.

Embera Puru’s community bank was established in 2014 with the support of Global Brigades.

EMBERA PURU’S BUSINESS SOLUTION

Business brigaders listen to a client in Embera Puru

In addition to the Community Bank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In Embera Puru there are several 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.

An artisanal woven bowl produced in Embera Puru

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 VOLUNTEERS IN EMBERA PURU:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Columbia University Business January 2013 9 Carnegie Mellon University Business March 2013 15
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Business March 2013 40 Miami University of Ohio Business March 2013  40
Texas A&M University Business December 2013 20 University of Pittsburgh / Penn State University Business March 2014 20
Dublin City University Microfinance March 2015 12 Arizona State University & University of California Berkley Business May 2015 20
University of Connecticut Microfinance January 2016 15 Michigan State University and Ball State University Environmental May 2017 13
University of Southern California Business December 2018 15 West Virginia University Business January 2020 10

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

EMBERA PURU’S PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGE

Embera Puru house and pit latrine

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.

 

146

Volunteers

15

Sanitation Units Constructed

85

People Benefitted with PH Infrastructure

N/A

Hours of PH Education

EMBERA PURU’S PUBLIC HEALTH SOLUTION:

A compost latrine for the Embera Puru school

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.

PUBLIC HEALTH VOLUNTEERS IN EMBERA PURU:

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