Ipeti Kuna

  • Overview
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Business


Ipeti Kuna is an indigenous community of 97 homes with a population of approximately 994 people. Located in East Panama, 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. Ibedi Guna is a primarily agricultural community, relying on the production corn, rice, plantains, coffee, yams, yucca (cassava), cacao and fruit for their own consumption as well as to sell to intermediaries. Microenterprises within the community also include the raising and selling of chicken, pork and fish. In 2016, Ibedi Guna’s Community Bank finished construction on an office which is now being used to host weekly meetings.

Corregimiento: Torti
District: Chepo

Homes : 97
Population : 994
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Some
Health Center : Yes
Community Health Workers : No
Homes with Latrines : 30%
Education in the Community : Up to 6th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 15 minutes to Tortí


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete



Even though Panama is considered a country with a lot of growth, the continuous growth in the income doesn’t necessarily apply to the economic growth of all Panamanians, especially those in the rural areas. This results in large inequality when it comes to healthcare attention. As a consequence, access to health and dental care is one of the largest challenges for our partner communities. Hospitals and clinics are scarce in the rural areas where we work, and those that are accessible often lack proper staff, equipment, and medication.

Ipeti Kuna has a health center maintained by Panama’s Ministry of Health, MINSA (Ministerio de Salud).  However, the health center frequently does not have a full pharmacy and is unable to see all patients on a regular basis.



Brigade Volunteers


Medical Patient Consultations


Adult Health Education Workshops (Approx.)


Children Education Workshops (Approx.)


Global Brigades Panama Medical Program is working diligently to train volunteers as CHWs in its partner communities as part of the Holistic Model. Ipeti Kuna will receive training as soon as possible to further support the health of its community members.

GB Panama’s Medical team started the Agentes Comunitarios en Salud or ACeS program in 2016. “Agentes” from 17 communities in East Panama and Darien were Panama’s first community health workers.

Some of the future ACeS worker’s primary responsibilities will 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
University of Western Ontario Medical May 2013 27 University of Texas Austin / University of Wisconsin Madison Medical January 2014 52
Seton Hall University Medical May 2014 22 University of Denver Medical March 2015 41
St. Louis University Medical Medical August 2015 26 University of Arizona Medical March 2016 23
Regis University Medical July 2016 25 University of Oklahoma Medical May 2017 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


Fillings Performed


Dental Education Workshops (Approx.)


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Texas Austin / University of Wisconsin Madison Medical January 2014 52 Seton Hall University Medical May 2014 22
University of Denver Medical March 2015 41 St. Louis University Medical August 2015 26
University of Arizona Medical March 2016 23 Regis University Medical July 2016 25
University of Oklahoma Medical May 2017 33

*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 Ibedi Guna can receive health support and resources consistently without the arrival of brigade volunteers in mobile clinics.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Community members in Ipeti Kuna 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. In order to gain access, members must travel to Torti, a 15-minute bus ride. 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 cost of travel and the lack of land titles as an indigenous community provide additional barriers.


Brigade Volunteers


Loans Administered


Capital Investment


Saving Accounts Opened


A student volunteer along with the Microfinance Field Technician sit down with the Community Bank Treasurer in the new Community Bank office to review their monthly financial records.

Through Global Brigades Business and Microfinance initiatives, Ipeti Kuna established their first Community Bank in August of 2015. With the opening of the Community Bank, community members have access to credit and savings accounts for the first time. Further, with access to savings, families can start to adequately prepare for the future, rather than hiding extra money in their beds, or not saving at all.

With the strong relationship developed in partnership with Global Brigades as a Holistic Community, Ipeti Kuna looks to receive financial training and business consulting to expand and improve its local microenterprises.

One of the cornerstones for 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 Ibedi Guna; the growth and success of their Community Bank means growth and success for the community.

In 2016 Ipeti Kuna finished construction on their own Community Bank office that will be used to hold meetings with members and store account records. This was a huge milestone for the leadership of the Community Bank and will allow them to continue growing and maintain operations.


In addition to the Community Bank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In Ipeti Kuna there are currently four businesses that have received financial training and business recommendations. Agro-businesses are prominent forms of commerce within this community. 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

Omar Perez

Omar Perez

Mujeres Artesenas

Torisita Velasquez, Etilmida Diaz,Alientita Perez

 Sale of artisan crafts

Eurelis y Alicia cría de pollos

Alicia y Eurelis Ismith

Chicken venture

Kiosko 8 de Diciembre Storefront



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Carnegie Mellon March 2016 15 University of Missouri January 2017 25

Local Reference Points

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

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