Guacuco Guna

  • Overview
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Business


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 : 1 hour


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Guacuco Guna does not have a Puesto de Salud (health post) and the closest Centro de Salud (health center) 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. There are two flush toilets in the community, previously built by the church, that are shared by everyone. Families that do not use these toilets go outside or to the river. Approximately, 90% of the community has gas stoves and they also use firewood when they run out of gas or money. Approximately, 80% of the houses have dirt floors, which is a custom for Guna communities. The majority of the houses are completely made of dried cane, sticks and leaves, which is Guna tradition.

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.




Patients Served


Vision Screenings


Health Education Workshops


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 Vasco Guerrero of Guacuco Guna.

Some of Vasco’s 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 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


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


Extractions Performed


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


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


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 microenterprises to grow and thrive.


Brigade Volunteers


Loans Administered


Capital Investment


Saving Accounts Opened


Through IPACOOP, credit and savings cooperatives have been established in parts of Panama Este and Darién in attempts to increase access to credit, build savings accounts, and fund local community projects, where the democratically controlled cooperative maintains all profits, which can then be used to fund other projects.

One of the cornerstones for the success of future projects is the sustainable nature of a community cooperative or community 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.





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.

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 microenterprises and projects. 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 Name Client Name Type of Business

Kiosko Pena



Hector Perez

Boris Jaen Agriculture

Cría de Pollo


Chicken Raising
Cría de Pollo Pepe Chicken Raising
Cría de Pollo #3 Boris Chicken Raising
Cría de Pollo #4 Vicente Chicken Raising

Venta de Platanos



Agricultura Vasco


Cafe de Guna


Agriculture – Coffee


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

Local Reference Points

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

  • Feature