Ipeti Embera


Located near Torti in eastern Panama, Ipeti Embera is an indigenous Embera community with a population of about 342.  The community of Ipeti Embera is well organized and has many established committees and organizations within the village.  The most common income generating activities are agriculture and making artisanal crafts. There are two separately functioning artisan groups that are integral to generating income, as they participate in tourism initiatives which serves as a market for selling their goods. Additionally, the main crops produced in Ipeti Embera are corn, rice, plantains, and yucca and there are six small kiosks in the town. For health needs, community members have access to a modest health post located within the community, but to see a doctor they would need to travel to Tortí.

Corregimiento: Tortí
District: Chepo

Homes : 72
Population : 342
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Majority of homes
Health Center : Yes
Community Health Workers : Yes
Homes with Latrines : 75%
Education in the Community : Up to 9th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 20 minutes


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Ipeti Embera is located directly off the Pan-American Highway in the Tortí District.  The community’s clinics are hosted at the elementary school, located in the center of the community. There is a health post in the community, but it is not regularly staff. When brigades are not present, Ipeti Embera’s community members go to the Tortí Health Center for basic care.  This health center is about 30 minutes away by bus once the community members have walked to the highway.  The community’s path to the highway is rocky, unpaved, and without shade.




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 ACeS workers is Marisin Docamo in Ipeti Embera who is on track to complete all trainings and start visiting community members with health needs.

Some of Marisin’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.
Marisin Docamo from Ipeti Embera shares her training material with the Leadership Insitute volunteers, July 2017.


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Virginia & Vanderbilt University March 2012 41 Harvard University January 2013 28
San Francisco State University June 2013 31 Florida Atlantic University March 2014 25
West Virginia University March 2015 39 Carnegie Mellon University March 2016 26
 Columbia University  January 2017  24 Northwestern University & University of Waterloo August 2017 23
American University of Antigua & University of Mary Washington January 2019 24 Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals Professional Brigade June 2019 14


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




Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Virginia & Vanderbilt University March 2012 41 Harvard University January 2013 28
San Francisco State University June 2013 31 Florida Atlantic University March 2014 25
West Virginia University March 2015 39 Carnegie Mellon University March 2016 26
 Columbia University  January 2017  24 Northwestern University & University of Waterloo August 2017 23
American University of Antigua & University of Mary Washington January 2019 24 Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals Professional Brigade June 2019 14


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Ipeti Embera has a gravity-run aqueduct water system that was constructed in 2006. There are frequently problems with the dam connected to the aqueduct, and it has been an issue that the community has to deal with regularly. When it runs smoothly, the water runs four days a week, eight hours a day. The water pressure is normal, and the water is chlorinated twice a month.

One hundred percent of the population is connected, and each household must pay a one-dollar-a-month maintenance fee. The source of the water is located three and a half hours away. No organizations have ever helped the community with their water system, but they have formed their own water committee. It has three members that meet on a regular basis. While improvements to water in the community can be made, this is not Global Brigades’ immediate focus as the water committee is quite advanced in managing these issues.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Community members in Ipeti Embera 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 30 minutes to Tortí every time they wish to access their funds, 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.

In the last few years, one of the artisan groups (Bayano Bahupono) established a cooperative in conjunction with IPACOOP, a governmental agency that helps start and audit cooperatives throughout Panama. One disadvantage is the irregular support from IPACOOP which was resulted in challenges for the young cooperative to stabilize itself.





Loans Administered


Capital Investment


Saving Accounts Opened


Through Global Brigades Business and Microfinance initiatives, Ipeti Embera can receive proper training on bookkeeping and administration best practices.  Additionally, Global Brigades has worked in conjunction a second artisanal group to establish a Community Bank.  With both the Buhapono cooperative and opening of the Community Bank, community members have suitable access to credit for the first time, and access to saving accounts for the first time.  

One of the cornerstones of the success of future projects is the sustainable nature of a 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. Capitalization of the cooperative is directly linked to the development of Ipeti Embera; the growth and success of their Community Bank mean growth and success for the community.



In addition to the Community Bbank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In Ipeti Embera, there are over 20 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

The Environmental Committee

Wilfredo Ruiz, Lucelis Flaco, Macrilia Cansari Agriculture

Cooperativa floor de orquidea

Hair Salon (Enedina) Hair salon

Bonifacio Flaco

Eligio Flaco Agriculture
Nicanor Gauinora Agriculture
Marisin coffee bean Agriculture
Nicanor Gauinora Agriculture
Marisin Coffee Farm Agriculture
Horacia Samana Livestock / Agriculture

Melina Casama

Adelaida Domico  Agriculture



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Penn State University March 2013 42 University of Southern California March 2013 16
Dublin City University March 2014  8 Indiana University March 2014 11
Yale University March 2014 14 Drexel University June 2014 14
Oakland University August 2014 17 Columbia University January 2015 15
Dublin City University March 2015 12 Brown University & DePaul University March 2015 16
Texas A&M University May 2015 31 St. Olaf College January 2016 12
Arizona State University May 2016 17 University of Waterloo August 2016 15
University of Missouri January 2017 6 Central Michigan University& Pennsylvania State University March 2017 16
Carnegie Mellon March 2017 16 University of Maryland Baltimore County March 2017 11
Indiana University & University of Nebraska Lincoln May 2017 15 Arizona State University & University of Nebraska Lincoln & West Virginia University May 2018 18
Texas A&M University January 2019 31 Texas A&M University January 2020 10

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


The community has received mobile medical clinics that come at least every six months and have dedicated a day of their brigade to completing a latrine project.  Outside of this, the community has never received any kind of outside health project. Only about one percent of the community has latrines. Most community members that do have latrines have pit latrines, which are prone to flooding in the rainy season, and in the summer months, heat causes these latrines to be a breeding ground for bacteria these are public health hazards. Thus, GB is focusing on creating hygienic bathrooms in Ipeti Embera with a shower and composting latrine for each family.




Latrines Constructed


Hours of Volunteer Construction


Approximate Number of Beneficiaries


Between March 2016 and March 2017 Medical Brigaders in conjunction with Global Brigades technicians and a Peace Corps. consultant launched and completed a composting latrine project in the community. This new latrine structure is equipped with an attached shower and a bathroom with two chambers for waste. Solid waste combined with the adding of sawdust after each use allows the latrine to become a source of compost. When solid waste and sawdust completely fill the first chamber it is sealed off and the toilet is moved to the second chamber. After 6 months of composting, the first chamber is re-opened and is ready to be used as a compost for gardens while the second chamber is used for the bathroom. Once the second chamber is filled to capacity the cycle starts over.



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of North Carolina Wilmington Medical December 2013 Vanderbilt University Medical March 2014 35
Carnegie Mellon University Medical March 2016 26 University of Arizona Medical  March 2016 23
Penn State University Medical May 2016  35 Maryville University Medical May 2016 27
University of Missouri – Kansas City Medical May 2016 30 University of Minnesota Medical May 2016 25
Texas Tech University Medical May 2016 32 California State University East Bay Medical June 2016 32
University of California – Berkeley Medical June 2016 28 Regis University Medical July 2016 25
Indiana University / Purdue University Medical August 2016 25 Southern Methodist University / Kings University London Medical August 2016 31
Penn State University University Medical January 2017 32 University of Maryland Baltimore County Medical January 2017 31
Columbia University Medical January 2017 22 Northeastern University Medical March 2017 36

Local Reference Points

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

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