Guacuco Guna

Overview

Guacuco Guna is an indigenous community of 30 homes with a population of approximately 165 people. Located in Panama Este, it is situated along the Pan-American Highway, the main stretch of road throughout Panama. As an indigenous Guna community, they are governed by the Guna Congress as well as the traditional Panamanian legal system. Guacuco Guna is primarily an agricultural community, relying on the production of corn, rice, yucca, plantains, and coffee. There are no schools or health centers within the community; so residents must travel by bus for education and healthcare. Working in collaboration with Business Brigades and IPACOOP (the Panamanian governmental organization that oversees cooperatives), Guacuco’s credit and savings cooperative Jirhe received legal status in August of 2013. Medical Brigades also serves the community with yearly mobile medical clinics in Guacuco Latino’s school which neighbors Guacuco Guna. The top three needs expressed by the community in their initial meetings with Global Brigades were: improved access to education, improved water system, and home improvements.

Corregimiento: Torti
District: Chepo

Homes : 30
Population : 165
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Some
Health Center : No
Community Health Workers : No
Homes with Latrines : 80%
Education in the Community : Up to 9th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 15-30 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.

Guacuco Guna does not have a Puesto de Salud and the closest Centro de Salud is in Torti, which is 15 minutes away by bus and an hour walking. The most common illnesses seen by community members are intestinal parasites, diarrhea, common cold and skin infections.

Guacuco is divided into two communities: Guacuco Guna and Guacuco Latino. Global Brigades has been able to host medical clinics in the Guacuco Latino portion and members from both parts of the general community are able to attend.

*These statistics reflect the work of historical Medical/Dental Brigades. For more information, view the Guacuco Latino profile.

101

Volunteers*

233

Patient Consultations*

15

Vision Screenings*

8

Health Education Workshops*

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS:

A group of CHWs from East Panama, trained in 2019

The community of Guacuco Guna does not yet have Community Health Workers. Global Brigades Panama Medical Program is working diligently to train volunteers as CHWs in its partner communities as part of the Holistic Model. Guacuco Guna will receive training as soon as possible to further support the health of its community members.

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

Brigaders assist with triage at a clinic in Guacuco Latino

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics for Guacuco Guna are hosted in the school building of the neighboring community, Guacuco Latino. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Volunteers assist with intake and triage, then shadow local doctors, dentists, and pharmacists. For more information, view the Guacuco Latino profile.

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY

Chapter Date Number of Volunteers Chapter Date Number of Volunteers
Jesuit Medical School Consortium Medical Brigade May 2012 14 University of Florida & University of San Francisco Medical Brigade December 2012 27
University of Maryland Baltimore County Dental & Medical Brigade March 2019 33

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.

*These statistics reflect the work of historical Medical/Dental Brigades. For more information, view the Guacuco Latino profile.

88

Dental Patient Consultations*

70

Fluoride Treatments*

28

Extractions Performed*

n/a

Fillings Performed*

BRIGADE INFORMATION

Brigaders assist with triage at a clinic in Guacuco Latino

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics for Guacuco Guna are hosted in the school building of the neighboring community, Guacuco Latino. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Volunteers assist with intake and triage, then shadow local doctors, dentists, and pharmacists. For more information, view the Guacuco Latino profile.

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN GUACUCO GUNA

Chapter Date Number of Volunteers Chapter Date Number of Volunteers
Jesuit Medical School Consortium Medical Brigade May 2012 14 University of Florida & University of San Francisco Medical Brigade December 2012 27
University of Maryland Baltimore County Dental & Medical Brigade March 2019 33

Water

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in Guacuco Guna but has not yet begun with the Water Program. Now in the planning phase, the financing, delivery, and installation of a water system infrastructure, or repairs to existing infrastructure will start as soon as feasible.

Water System : Yes
System Type : Gravity aqueduct
Homes connected to water : 60%
Water Council : Yes

Business

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

GUACUCO GUNA’S ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

The majority of the community members have agriculturally based businesses and small farms. A common issue is a lack of manpower to adequately maintain the fields, and quite often it is the lack of access to capital which results in farmers being unable to contract day workers to increase production. Additionally, agriculture is a very volatile industry meaning that income can very enormously by season and from year to year because of environmental factors. Larger financial institutions (which are inaccessible due to distance and do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income) make it very difficult for local micro-enterprises to grow and thrive.

129

Volunteers

12

Saving Accounts Opened*

N/A

Loans Administered*

$7,100

Capital Investment*

GUACUCO GUNA’S MICROFINANCE SOLUTION

Guacuco Guna coop

One of the cornerstones for economic growth in rural communities is the sustainable nature of a community cooperative or bank: investments are approved through loans granted to community projects; interest is then paid back on the loans—both large and small—and 100% of profits stay in the community, enabling the funding of more loans for more projects in the community. In Guacuco, nearly all adults are members of the cooperative. Capitalization of the cooperative is directly linked to the development of Guacuco; the growth and success of their cooperative means growth and success for the community.

Business brigaders provide a consultation to a member of the Guacuco Guna coop

Building specialized workshops of a variety of educational, microfinance, and business consulting topics, brigaders from all over the world have contributed to the development of Guacuco Guna’s credit and savings cooperative, along with skill building training and education of its members and local microenterprise owners. In August 2013, Guacuco Guna’s cooperative, Jirhe, finally received legal status from IPACOOP, resulting in the ability to approve loans larger than $75 which can expand their membership pool, grow local projects, and legally receive Global Brigade’s $1000 seed capital donation for future project loans.

*The above statistics reflect the period from August 2014 to October 2015 when Global Brigades microfinance technicians conducted monthly follow-up visits. Global Brigades has since ceased involvement with Guacuco Guna’s cooperative, and community members manage the bank sustainably on their own.

GUACUCO GUNA’S  BUSINESS SOLUTION

An artisan in Guacuco Guna sewing bracelets

With a strong foundation developed with the partnership of Business Brigades, Guacuco looks to be able to expand the size and scope of its local micro-enterprises. The community has voiced goals for future projects that will be possible with more business consulting and workshops:

•  The creation of a community store
•  Investments in transportation initiatives for their children’s school and emergencies
•  Housing projects

In addition to community wide projects, individual entrepreneurs from the community will be able to expand their businesses and provide a more stable economic future for themselves and their families.

BUSINESS VOLUNTEERS IN GUACUCO GUNA

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Carnegie Mellon University Business Brigade March 2012 15 London School of Economics Business Brigade March 2012 15
University of Calgary Business Brigade May 2012 15 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Business Brigade January 2013 28
Dublin Institute of Technology Business June 2013 8 Oakland University Business August 2013 18
Carnegie Mellon University Business March 2015 15 Arizona State University Business May 2015 15

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in Guacuco Guna but has not yet begun with the Public Health Program. Now in the planning phase, the financing, delivery, and installation of household health infrastructure products will start as soon as feasible. 

Homes with flushing toilet : 30%
Homes with latrine : 100%
Homes with bath/shower : N/a
Common house materials : Wood, straw, dried cane

Local Reference Points

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

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